These days it’s not so unusual to find a NBA Net in Brooklyn now that they are Brooklyn’s home team. However, it is somewhat usual to find a 1998 NBA All-Star from the New Jersey Nets in Brooklyn. Yet one will find Jayson Williams, the NBA All-Star, on 120 Jackson Street in North Brooklyn coaching kids in basketball Tuesday afternoons.
Mr. Williams is no stranger to NYC’s boroughs though. He went to Christ the King High
School in Middle Village Queens, and it was at this high school that he met Laura and Lisa Bamonte, of Bamonte’s Italian Restaurant in Williamsburg, and John D’Arienzo, President of the School Settlement. Lisa mentioned to Jayson that there were 60 kids in the School Settlement’s afterschool program who’d love to play basketball. In Jayson’s hands this idea quickly formed into action. He went to Giovanni Shepherd, his St. John’s University teammate, for an assist. Giovanni Shepherd is now more familiarly known as “Coach Gio” from his years as a member of St. John’s University basketball staff.
January 13th, was the first day of the basketball clinic at School Settlement’s Afterschool Program led by Jayson Williams and Giovanni Shepherd. They plan on teaching two half-hour classes each Tuesday afternoon for as long as the kids want. If that’s the case, this may well turn out to be a long term engagement due to the soaring level of excitement and energy powering each kid throughout the first session.
Running a few laps around the court was first on the list of the days’ training. Then Mr. Williams counted off each kid with a one or a two, the ones would form a line facing opposite the twos. The kids were then drilled in the triple-threat position and so learned dribbling, passing, and shooting (the three elements of the triple-threat). Coach Gio signaled with his whistle and Jayson Williams gave them verbal instructions. Later they took turns to shoot some layups. By all the smiling faces it seemed pretty unanimous that everyone was having a great time.
The School Sett basketball players have named themselves the Brooklyn Sharks. Rick Martinez, Program Director of the School Settlement, said, “The basketball clinics are going great. Kids and families love it. Some parents have come early to watch the activities and even some kids that aged out of the program have come by to see as well. We are very lucky and appreciative for both Jayson and Gio.”
While setting up for the kids, Jayson and Gio reflected on their youth playing basketball: They didn’t have a gym so they had to play outside no matter the weather. There would be one ball for 60–80 kids.
When asked why he wanted to do this clinic Jayson said, “The kids see structure and then they know that they can do it.”
Giovanni Shepherd added, “They learn how to be good teammates.”
The lessons learned from sports, especially team sports, shouldn’t be underestimated and these skills transfer to many aspects of life. Jayson added, “This helps us more than it helps the kids,” which in light of all the benefits the kids will be receiving isn’t as modest a statement as it first seems.