Marcus TraxlerAssistant Sports Editor
Difference makers, on and off the court.
Nearly 250 kids converged on Frost Arena for the Hy-Vee Fast Break Clinic on Jan. 29 to learn some of the basics of basketball and get an up-close look at the Jackrabbits.
Student-athletes from SDSU’s 21 sports assisted in helping kids to work on their footwork, shooting, passing, and dribbling. Participants were rewarded with a t-shirt and a ticket to Saturday night’s doubleheader against Southern Utah. The event was free with a canned food item.
The event also proved to be a way to see some of SDSU’s athletes in a different element, conveying the teaching points that they hear everyday in practice.
“I found myself teaching the kids the same drills Coach Nagy is teaching to us everyday in practice, so it’s a great time,” said men’s basketball player Payton Tivis.
With plenty of school-age youngsters across the floor, there was a sense that SDSU is trying to mold Jackrabbit fans out of these kids through the event.
“We hope so. Really when you look at it, the most important thing is how these kids feel about the student-athletes and you want them to be proud of them and I think they certainly can,” said SDSU men’s basketball coach Scott Nagy.
“It’s great for our community. Not just the Brookings community but there’s a lot of area South Dakota kids here from some of the surrounding communities. It’s a great way for us to be involved and interact. It’s a good lesson for all of our student-athletes on being involved in the community,” said SDSU women’s basketball coach Aaron Johnston.
Many of the players got their points across to the young kids in a vibrant way, jumping around and adding color to their normally focused demeanors.
“I wish some of our players would play defense the way they are teaching the kids to play. Taking charges and talking, it’s great. I think it puts our athletes in different perspective and it’s fun to see how they react as coaches,” Johnston said.
Matthew Weelborg, a six year-old from Brookings, said that shooting was his favorite part of the clinic and “all of the players” were pretty cool.
“It’s great to just hang out with the kids and show them a little something, it’s fun,” Tivis said.
The event is something that is an important theme in the SDSU athletic department.
“It’s not just this. There’s so many things that our student-athletes do and are involved in and our student-athletes do a great job at it. They’re our most important ambassadors,” Nagy said.