By: Hailey Winston
DALLAS- Longtime NBA player Kenyon Martin, a Dallas native, was once dubbed the “gentle giant” by family members and friends. Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, on the other hand, once referred to the former Nugget as a “thug,” a description to which he and his family took exception.
“He’s this and he’s that, but in reality this is him on a regular basis,” said Tamara Harris, whose brother was busy high-fiving kids at the Dallas basketball camp.
About 250 children ages 6 to 16 are attended the third annual Hoops for Kids Summer Basketball Camp this week at Tommie Allen Recreation Center in southeast Oak Cliff. The camp is hosted by the Kenyon Martin Foundation and CBF Sports Management. In addition to basketball, campers will learn life skills, physical fitness and conflict resolution. Besides Martin, NBA players Josh Howard, a former Maverick, and Mo Williams also attended. Martin said he hopes those attending the camp will learn that people outside their immediate families care about them. He advised them to do their schoolwork, listen to their parents and stay out of trouble.
“It’s very, very easy to get in trouble. It’s hard to get out of,” said the free agent forward, who went to Dallas’ Bryan Adams High School. “Trust me … very, very hard to get out of.”
Mayor Mike Rawlings, one of the VIPs at the camp’s kickoff, encouraged students to work hard, attend college and return to serve their community. He deemed southern Dallas “our greatest growth opportunity” in this realm.
“Do something great in your life, then reach with your hand and pick somebody up and have them come along with you,” he told campers. “You pick each other up and help each other,” on and off the court.
Eight-year-old Raven Busby, who dreams of playing in the WNBA, said she’s hoping to get one step closer by learning to bounce a basketball under her legs. She also has a plan for after camp ends.“I’m going to work hard when I’m in high school,” she said. “Then I’m going to be on the college team.”
Mayor Pro Tem Tennell Atkins, who worked closely with Martin to organize this week’s camp, summed up the kids’ camp experience. “They can’t believe they’ve got NBA players reaching out to them and teaching them,” he said. “They can’t believe they’re here.”