By John Denton
August 8, 2017
ORLANDO – As he helped one camper after another with their shooting form on Tuesday, Orlando Magic legend Nick Anderson repeatedly encountered a question that elicited a hearty laugh each time.
Noticing the heavy patches of gray in Anderson’s goatee and clearly unaware of his lofty status as a Magic Hall of Famer and one of the most accomplished players in franchise history, several campers playfully inferred about the instructor’s age.
“What I’ve heard three times already is, `Nick Anderson, you’re old!’’’ said a chuckling, 49-year-old Anderson, not minding the jabs from youngsters some 37 years his junior. “I tell them, `yeah, I might be old, but like my mother said, `just keep on living.’’’
The laughs and the life lessons were aplenty on Tuesday at RDV Sportsplex as the Orlando Magic Youth Basketball Academy hosted the fourth annual Magic Fit Draft Combine. The camp was held for 120 youth from South Orlando YMCA, Meadow Woods Rec Center and the Taft Boys and Girls Club.
Campers were put through six skills stations that included dribbling, passing, shooting, jumping testing, performance testing and nutrition/hydration tips. Anderson, the Magic’s all-time leader in five major statistical categories, was joined on the court by former Magic players Jeff Turner and Bo Outlaw. Magic Strength and Conditioning coach Bill Burgos, Magic nutritionist Tara Gidus Collingwood and a Gatorade representative were also on hand to answer questions and give out tips relating to conditioning and nutrition.
“There are a lot of life lessons being taught and maybe the most important one with this Magic Fit program that we have is to get kids to get up and be active,’’ said Turner, who serves as the television color analyst for Fox Sports Florida’s coverage of Magic games. “For us, it’s about using the game of basketball to teach the life lessons and for (the campers) it could be used with any situation. But this is a great vehicle for us to communicate the message. We’re not just talking basketball here. We’re discussing nutrition, living a healthy lifestyle and the earlier they hear the message, the better.’’
The Magic Academy hopes to use basketball as a means to teach life skills to elementary and middle school-aged kids. Through the Magic Academy kids were instructed about the values of teamwork, sportsmanship, leadership and health and wellness in addition to basketball skills. The Magic Academy has three main areas of focus: Jr. Magic Basketball Leagues, Magic Youth Camps & Clinics presented by UnitedHealthcare and Magic Fit.
Magic Fit is the team’s first-ever fitness and nutrition education program for youth. The program’s goal is to encourage physical activity through playing the game of basketball and healthy living for youth and families. Magic Fit is an important component to the Magic Academy as it prepares youth to be in the necessary physical condition to participate in basketball whether through leagues, camps or clinics. As part of the Magic Academy, Magic Fit will be a focus in the Magic’s youth basketball efforts while continuing to hold various youth events throughout the season including the Magic Fit Draft Combine, the Magic Fit Kid Chef Cookoff and the Magic Fit Four-Week Challenge.
Turner, who played for the Magic from 1989-86, has taken an active role in working with children and local basketball coaches on the fundamentals of basketball – both on the court and off it.
“I was asked last year to be more involved, especially with the Magic Basketball Academy and the growth of that, so when I get a call to get something like this (kids camp) going, I jump on it,’’ Turner said. “It’s fun to give back and work with the kids. And you are building fans at the grassroots level.’’
Turner held an impromptu trivia contest with Tuesday’s campers, asking them questions where only Anderson, Outlaw or himself were the answers. Since many of them were far too young to know much about the playing careers of any of those three players, they learned that Anderson is the only Magic Hall of Famer among the group; Outlaw once preferred swimming over basketball; and that Turner won a gold medal in Los Angeles in 1984 with USA Basketball.
Anderson is well aware that much of today’s younger generation doesn’t know much about players from the past. However, he wasn’t about to let jokes about his age stop him from handing out tips that will help children both on the basketball court and in everyday life.
“Some of the things that you hear the kids say just make me laugh, but this camp is a good one because you get to see them having fun,’’ said Anderson, the Magic’s all-time leader in games played with 692. “I talked to them about paying attention and staying focused in the drills because those are things that apply in every-day life and in the classroom.
“The things that I learned through basketball, you want to give them back to the younger generation,’’ Anderson added. “You can look the direction that some of our younger generation has taken, so you want to try to step in and get the message that you know about and what you have been through to these kids and hope that it helps them.’’
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