With Philadelphia the stage for the NBA All-Star Game celebration last weekend, Temple became one of the hot spots. There were rap superstars hooping it up at the Liacouras Center and something special for the kids.
On Friday afternoon, about 200 kids aged 8-15 filed into McGonigle Hall to learn from the pros. Ex-Temple basketball stars Aaron McKie and Rick Brunson, along with Cleveland Cavalier rookie DeSagana Diop, held a clinic for the children from North Philly, Camden and the Coatesville area.
“The most important part is the kids,” said McKie, a guard for the Sixers. “Anytime you can come here and look out on the floor and see a bunch of kids running around and having fun, you know your job has been done.”
“It feels great to come back and to get a chance to help the young kids. Every time I get a chance to come back to Temple it brings back a lot of good memories,” said Brunson.
The kids were divided into four groups according to ages. They competed in passing, shooting, dribbling and quickness drills. The pros went from group to group helping out.
“I went to high school and went to college here, and now playing professionally here, so Philadelphia, being the host of the All-Star Game, I feel like I have to represent the city,” McKie said.
“This gives them a chance to meet NBA players like myself and Aaron, get a chance for them to have a little bit of fun,” Brunson said.
“I am all about helping the kids and hoping they learn some skills. Seeing their smiles, the kids being happy makes you happy, just looking at them makes your day,” said Diop.
And boy did the kids have fun.
“It feels good to see celebrities. It shows that they care and want to spend time with young teenagers,” said Jamar Boyer, 15, of Coatesville.
Allen Showell, 13, from Downingtown, Pa., was wide-eyed as he took photos of the stars.
“I am so excited,” he said. “I am here to improve my basketball skills.”
Keenan Mitchell, 14, from Wyncote, Pa., was hustling through drills and learning new skills form the pros.
“It is so great to see the players reaching out to speak to us and helping us improve our skills,” he said.
At the end of the clinic, the excited and tired kids received a signed “Hoops is Religion” T-shirt.
“I can remember when I was younger I didn’t have situations like this, where people would come into my neighborhood or to my school and put on a free clinic, and have NBA players counseling them, and just interacting with them,” said McKie.