UConn Men’s Basketball Team Captivates Southport Clinic Campers: ‘An Opportunity To Inspire’

SOUTHPORT — Andre Jackson worked in the ball-handling position, Adama Sanogo helped teach passing, Hassan Diarra was on the outside showing the finer points of defense.

The UConn men’s basketball team spent about 90 minutes at the Wakeman Boys & Girls Club’s Southport Clubhouse on Monday morning, helping set up drills at a clinic for about 150 campers.

But after each group of kids walked through the five different drill stations, preceded by an introductory speech from associate head coach Kimani Young and brief introductions to the 11 Husky players, it was no surprise to find out what captivated the children the most.

“The most impressive things were the 3-point contest and the dunk contest,” said 9-year-old Christopher Heredia of Stamford.

Indeed, a 3-point shooting contest between the teams of Nahiem Alleyne and Joey Calcaterra against Alex Karaban and Jordan Hawkins, followed by a dunk contest between Andre Jackson, Samson Johnson and Donovan Clingan, capped off the day with cheers. cheering crowd.

All in all, it was a special day not only for the campers, about 40 of whom were bussed in from the club’s Smilow-Burroughs Clubhouse in Bridgeport, but also for Young and the UConn players.

“That’s awesome, man,” Young said. “To be able to have the opportunity to inspire young people to fall in love with the game like we all do is a special opportunity. Especially in a state like this, where we get so much fan support and people care so much about the program. Being able to give them the opportunity to see us up close and spend time with us is a matter of course for us.

Added Jackson, the 6-foot-6 top junior, “I think it’s good to be in touch with the community as much as possible. Doing stuff like that is really good, to keep ties within the community, to meet great guys. Good team building activities, good to be together. All in all, trying to teach little kids is definitely a good way to learn on your own.

The idea for the clinic grew out of the club’s partnership with other UConn departments in addition to athletics, and with Oliver Antigua of BSN Sports, the company that provides equipment and other necessities for the club.

Antigua, whose older brother Orlando is a longtime college principal and assistant coach and is currently John Calipari’s associate head coach at Kentucky, has known Young for years. He used to coach against Young at St. Raymond’s High in New York when Young was coaching at Rice High. Antigua also goes back a long way with UConn head coach Dan Hurley (“he’s basketball royalty”) and his family. Hurley was not at the clinic on Monday.

“Basketball is my passion,” Antigua said. “We wanted to know, ‘How can we give back?'”

So he called Young, who took the opportunity to not only help the local community, but also create a team-building event on the long van ride from Storrs and back, where the team practice later in the day. .

“That’s awesome,” said Hawkins, a rising sophomore. “Giving back to the community, some of these kids look up to us, it’s amazing. It’s a great feeling. I love doing this.

Jackson said he remembers in his youth going to Straight Shooters Camp in New York run by Brian Fruscio. Jackson would eventually play for Fruscio at Albany Academy.

“It changed my life a lot,” he said. “It opened a lot of doors for me. For these kids, it’s nice that as college basketball players, we get around these kids at such a young age and teach them little things, even if it doesn’t. does not apply to basketball. Even if it is only a lesson that they will learn and apply to another form of their life, it is certainly useful.

Tim Cepetelli, manager of the Southport Clubhouse, said the idea behind clinics like these is “to expose kids to all sorts of interesting, hands-on opportunities and experiences, so they learn more about themselves and on others, try things they might have a little experience in but might want to take to the next level. Any sport is great, higher education is too. We want our children to have these experiences.

During his introductory speech, Young, who played at the University of Texas-El Paso, noted that he probably would never have been the player or coach he is without the opportunities and experiences. like the one the campers experienced on Monday. He urged campers to do everything in life with energy and enthusiasm, and for kids who love basketball to fall in love with all aspects of the game – drills, games, training.

“All of this is going to make you better,” Young promised.

Finally, he noted that basketball or any other sport is just a part of a person’s life. Young said he grew up in the same neighborhood as future NBA stars Kenny Anderson and Kenny Smith, and pointed out that Smith, after a 10-year playing career, had a 25-year career as a as an NBA TV analyst.

Ultimately, it wasn’t just the 3-point and dunk contests (the latter won by Jackson) that seemed to impact the young campers.

“It was cool,” said Sebastian Fereira, 9, of Bridgeport. “I thought the defense thing, when we had to sing ‘Defense!’, was the best.”

And overall?

“I was inspired,” Fereira said.

And that was exactly the goal of the Wakeman Boys & Girls Club, Kimani Young and Oliver Antigua from the start.

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