At the YMCA CityWay, just a block from Bankers Life Fieldhouse, a group of over 100 campers launched from the pushup position into a determined defensive stance.
The drill was just one of many they went through on the tipoff the week-long Jr. Pacers Hoops Tour, presented by McDonalds and Gatorade.
The Jr. Hoops Tour, which is open to boys and girls ages 6-14, takes basketball to the basics, giving the kids a foundation for success in the sport while also imparting lessons that can help off the court.
“Life requires you to be disciplined and structured, so if you’re going to play in sports of some kind, there is a great deal of that,” said Darnell “Dr. Dunk” Hillman, a former Pacers player himself and current Associate Director of Camps & Clinics for Pacers Sports & Entertainment. “We try to teach the kids about communication, the most important thing in basketball.”
One of the key aspects of communication is listening, which was on full display as the campers took a seat to hear to the sage advice of Pacers legend George McGinnis, who was recently elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
McGinnis handed out advice for the kids, with the aim of helping them grow their games on the court and in the classroom.
“Whatever they do, have some passion for it,” said McGinnis of his message to the campers. “Find whatever your lane is and work hard at it. Then try to be the best person you can be.”
Following their meeting with McGinnis, the campers rushed downstairs for a lunch provided by McDonalds. As their meal wrapped up, Pacers guard Lance Stephenson surprised the campers, opening up the floor for another Q&A sessions where the questions ranged from his offseason workout routine to blowing in LeBron’s ear.
After lunch, Stephenson and the campers headed back to the court for some more drills, with Stephenson stopping by each station to impart his skills.
“They come to the games to support us, so coming to a camp where we are supporting them is great,” said Stephenson of why he enjoys the Jr. Pacers camp.
Beyond that, Stephenson himself was aided by a memorable basketball camp he attended as a child — a sleep-away camp in the Poconos that was run by Stephon Marbury, who was from Stephenson’s neighborhood.
“It was a great experience, meeting my first NBA player ever in Stephon Marbury, we from the same neighborhood but that was the first time I met him,” Stephenson recalled. “And going up to the Poconos, having fun with all the kids from our neighborhood and we just had a ball. We were out there for a week and didn’t even want to go back home.”
As Hillman blew his whistle to signal silence and attention from the campers, all the kids crouched down with their arms stretched out in a textbook defensive stance. Right there with them, Stephenson too was crouched, showing the kids the same techniques he learned from basketball summer camps when he was a camper himself.