The Uplift Peak middle school boys and girls basketball teams have been finalized. While their season kicks off in January, 40 scholars who tried out were able to get some preseason help from professionals. The scholars were picked to attend the Jr. NBA clinic during their launch week on Tuesday, October 20.
The scholars arrived to the American Airline Center with some thinking they were going to watch a game or just meet a couple of players. The group was surprised to find shirts with their names and learned they would be doing drills alongside Mavericks Devin Harris and Jeremy Evans.
Uplift Peak coach, Mark Rodgers did not include any specifics when he asked scholars to get their field trip form signed to attend a Mavs clinic. Rodgers selected scholars not based on their basketball skills but on who would most benefit from the experience.
“I wanted them to be surprised and feel special,” said Rodgers, Uplift Peak middle school girls’ basketball coach.
Isaac Giron, 12, was quite surprised. The 6th grader thought he was going to help at an emergency clinic with Mavericks’ players.
This will be the 12 year-old’s first year on a team, and he can now say he beat a professional basketball player. The group played knockout, where two players stand at the foul line and the first player to make it in knocks out the other player, against Harris and Evans.
Giron knocked out Harris in one round. The 12 year-old said, “I knocked-out the NBA player!”.
The clinic, which is open to six-to-14 year-olds, had scholars practice footwork, ball handling and shooting techniques alongside Harris and Evans.
“The idea of the program is to give kids and parents resources and tips,” said Ben Hunt, manager of camps and community basketball for the Dallas Mavericks.
Jamareion Denmark, 12, is an avid Mavs fan and has played the sport since he was 5. The 8th grader was excited for the drills but more so for the experience. Denmark said he was appreciative that the players took time out of their schedule to participate.
“We really appreciate the opportunity; there were so many schools they could have picked,” said Yazmine Garcia, 13, “I felt like we were touching holy ground.”
Hunt who extended the invite to Uplift Peak is a former Uplift Education employee. The former dean has been a coach and athletic director at Uplift North Hill for seven years before taking on his new position earlier this year.
“The game of basketball has given me so many opportunities, and now I am in a position that allows us (the Mavs team) to give back,” said Hunt.
Despite his recent departure to join the Mavs, he still holds Uplift schools close to his heart. The Mavs hold a clinic at Uplift North Hills once a week and Hunt hopes to continue to partner with other Uplift schools.
“I love basketball and it is an experience I will remember forever,” said Jessica Munoz, 13.
The Jr. NBA clinic will continue throughout the NBA season. The clinics are not only open to schools but parents can register their own teams as well. Hunt adds the Mavericks holds camps throughout the year and should visit the site to get more information.
Varsity basketball season kicks off at Uplift Peak on Nov. 9.