Standing at almost seven feet tall, the Utah Jazz’s new center is pretty easy to spot in a crowd.
Even crouched in a deep defensive stance, 19-year-old Enes Kanter of Turkey towered over the admiring eyes of those who emulated his posture and shifting movement across the gym floor at the Zions Bank Basketball Center in Salt Lake City Saturday morning.
Kanter, along with fellow lottery pick and former University of Colorado Buffalo Alec Burks, joined the Jazz coaching staff in hosting a private basketball clinic for local youth from the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Utah and the Boys and Girls Club of South Valley.After a brief warmup, head coach Tyrone Corbin, assistant coaches Scott Layden and Jeff Hornacek and Director of Basketball Operations Richard Smith helped Kanter and Burks coach the participants in a rotation of the basketball essentials – dribbling, shooting, passing and defense.
For two sisters, Carla and Luisa Baez, this was the highlight of their day.
“Learning from the coaches was awesome because they’re the ones who teach the Jazz to do everything and keep them where they are,” said 13-year-old Carla.
“Not too many kids get to do this,” 11-year-old Luisa added.
The event also had special significance for Corbin.
“I grew up in the Boys and Girls Club in South Carolina,” Corbin said. “It’s a great feeling to now be a part of the Jazz organization and have an opportunity to give back to that group. It’s just fun to see [the kids] having fun doing something that’s good for them.”
Kanter’s enthusiasm was recognizable as he gave out high fives to the children as they completed the drills.
“I love being around kids,” Kanter said. “After my basketball career I want to do something like this. It’s just so much fun, and it makes me so happy.”
After a busy few days because of the NBA draft, Burks said it was nice to just blow off some steam.
“They’ve got a lot of energy, like myself,” Burks said.
The participants were given a peek behind the scenes with a tour of the locker room, as well as an opportunity to ask questions and take photos in the pressroom, where gifts, including Jazz swag, awaited them.
Opening it up for a mock press conference, Corbin faced a motley sequence of questions from the young basketball enthusiasts, some drawing amused laughter from the adults in the room: Who is your favorite player on the Jazz? Do the Lakers cheat? Did you ever want to play for the Jazz? Others sounded oddly like those the media have been asking lately.
“Was Jimmer an option in the draft?” asked one teenager.
“He was,” Corbin answered. “But we had the 12th pick and he went 10th. It was great to see him go earlier and be rewarded with a higher pick because he worked really hard. I think he’ll do well in this league because he can really score.”
Megan Shaw, Juniors Program director for the Boys and Girls Club in Murray, said the unique experience was one she hoped would stick with the youth.
“Most of these kids have never even been to a game, but they have a love and passion for basketball,” Shaw said. “What they were able to do today was an amazing, once in a lifetime opportunity that truly lets them see the reality of it. If this is their dream then it’s a possibility for them, if they work hard enough.”
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