By Briana Vannozzi
A few pointers from the pros. Hundreds of Camden kids tested their skills dribbling, shooting and running drills at the first ever Camden Youth Basketball Clinic.
“We have 300 kids here today. We had 500 in the previous two days, so from a Virtua perspective 800 kids in Camden are going to leave this clinic knowing a little bit more about nutrition. They’re going to know about taking care of their bodies, and they’ll learn a little bit about basketball too,” said Michael Kotzen, Executive VP of Population Health Management for Virtua Health System.
The 3-day clinic is thanks to a partnership formed by Virtua Health System and the Philadelphia 76ers — who are about a year away from moving their practice facility here. It’s a starting point for future programming to promote health and wellness in and around the city.
“Its an opportunity for us to make the world a little bit better and I think this is one showcase of it here, where you have escentially a bunch of 24-year-old Sixers employees out helping kids that maybe they can make a little difference in their lives,” said Sixers CEO Scott O’Neil.
“Kids don’t really think about it much they think ‘I want to be in the NBA. What do I have to do? I got to shoot, I got to shoot, I got to shoot, I got to run, I got to jump’ — well what about nutrition? Its like going on a road trip without putting gas in your tank,” said April Schetler.
The clinic was open for kids between 10- to 14-years-old. They got new basketball jerseys and they’ll receive new sneakers at the end. The hosts say it gives them a productive outlet for their energy while keeping them off the streets.
“It starts at this age guys, listening to your parents, going to school every day, doing the little things that prepares you as you get older,” said Curtis Sumpter.
“Its like they care about us — how we feel, are we safe or not safe — and just want us to have fun,” said 13-year-old Jeremiah Daniels.
“I’m learning a lot of stuff and I’m also having fun,” said 11-year-old Zamijah Shakeur-Tompkins.
The partnership will also create a Sixers Academy of Southern Jersey to expand programs. Six elementary and middle schools will be selected every year to participate.
“You can learn how to play basketball and get exercise. Some people usually back in the day in Camden, they didn’t have this opportunity,” said 10-year-old Shiloh Bailey.
“This is in our DNA. It’s what we are and who we are and we believe given in our position with the Sixers organization, we have an obligation to do this,” said O’Neil.
Moving forward this clinic will be held in the Sixers new practice facility once it’s built in Camden which means they’ll be able to reach more students and maybe beyond the walls of the city.