LAW & PUBLIC SAFETY

Kids Get Life Lessons from Basketball Stars

By Michael Hill
Correspondent

Linden native Tamecka Dixon won back to back WNBA championships with the L.A. Sparks.

“When that buzzer sounds and you’re actually standing with the trophy, that is a culmination of all that hard work,” she said.

Teaneck native Tony Campbell won an NBA championship with the L.A. Lakers. Campbell and Dixon were among the retired pro players and the Police Athletic League and others in the “Full Court Press: Prep for Success” Saturday in Farmingdale, introducing dozens of kids 8 to 18 years old to basketball and to police and canine work.

Howell Township Police Officer Nicholas Bondarew demonstrated how “Vito” — a Belgian Malinois — has been trained to sniff out drugs.

“First and foremost, we’re about trying to teach them the positive opportunities and engagement with law enforcement so that that stigma of us against them is erased,” said Jeff Hood, second vice president of the National PAL Board of Directors.

Dixon is a stickler for details and hard work. The kind of attributes learned from her father who played in the NBA, she used in her pro career and she shared with these students of the game.

“But whatever they do, the basis for that is hard work. So if they continue to do that, you know, they will see their dreams achieved,” she said.

WNBA scoring sensation Adrienne Goodson said she dreamed of playing basketball when she was 6 but was too young for a team.

“So I stood outside that door. I was 6 years old and I was bouncing the ball. When I was 7 years old, I was bouncing the ball. When I was 8 years old, I was bouncing the ball. When I became 9 I went in the door. I said, ‘Here I am,'” she said.

A resonating message of perseverance for Olivia Hill. “That was kind of inspiring,” she said.

Campbell showed the players how to “shake” and fake an opponent but said you can’t fake how you must feel if you aspire to play the game.

“And what we say to them, that if you are a true to the sport of basketball, just love the game and all those pats on the back, all those awards, all those trophies, all those acknowledgements, they will come to you if you truly love the game,” he said.

John Anderson of Bayonne wants to play pro ball. He said he practices the message delivered here of surrounding yourself with good people and he practices avoiding trouble.

“There’s doing other stuff that I like to do like playing basketball, hanging out with the right people or staying in the house sometimes,” he said.

The retired players’ association, the Jr. NBA, the Police Athletic League and their partners say they put on this event some 15 times a year across America.

“It’s great to be a playground legend, but it’s also great if you’re able to use this as an opportunity to maybe get a college scholarship and that type of thing as well,” Hood said.

Lessons to excel on the court and in life.