All-Stars Help 300 Girls Improve Their Basketball Skills At Jr. NBA Day

Aisha I. Jefferson
February 14, 2020 - 9:41 pm
NBA All Girls Basketball Workshop

WBBM Newsradio/Aisha Jefferson

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CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- Seventh-grader Keytoia Anderson may not spend a lot of time on the basketball court but she picked up a few valuable tips from NBA All-Stars Kawhi Leonard, Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and Kemba Walker during the fifth annual Jr. NBA Day held Friday at Navy Pier in Chicago. 

“It was actually pretty fun and a good experience. I learned how to dribble better because I couldn’t dribble, and I’m kind of good at shooting,” said Keytoia, 13, who attends Paul Revere Elementary School in the Greater Grand Crossing neighborhood on the South Side.

Each NBA All-Star was assigned to a station where they led basketball clinics that taught the girls fundaments such as passing, ball handling, shooting and dribbling. Like Keytoia, the girls listened closely and demonstrated the suggestions their celebrity instructors offered.

All Star NBA All Girls Workshop

“The energy in this room was outstanding. The girls really, really brought it,” said David Krichavsky, head of Youth Basketball Development at the NBA.

Keytoia is among 300 local girls who participated in a special session dedicated to helping increase girls’ interest in basketball. The effort is part of Her Time to Play -- the NBA and WNBA’s national initiative focused on inspiring girls ages 7 to 14 to play basketball.  

“Twice as many girls as boys drop out of organized sports by age 14, which is a real concerning stat for us,” Krichavsky said. 

As a result, he said the NBA is really focused on ensuring girls have the same opportunity as boys, a reason why they added the girls-only session this year. He said the professional ballers were pretty psyched to coach the girls. 

“We were talking to the NBA players before the event and told them that this was an all-girls session and across the board, they lit up and said, ‘This is awesome. This is cool,’” he said. 

Dallas Wings forward Katie Lou Samuelson said it’s very important for basketball professionals to be hands-on and in-person with young female players. 

“For them to be out here hands-on with these girls and helping them to learn the game, it just shows that a basketball player is a basketball player. It doesn’t matter if you’re a girl or a guy,” said Samuelson, who learned on Friday that the Chicago Sky traded her to the Dallas Wings in exchange for forward Azurá Stevens. 

Growing up, Samuelson said she remembered “every interaction” she had with college and professional women’s basketball players and trusts the girls will have similar fond memories. 

All-Star slam dunker Aaron Gordon of the Orlando Magic said he reminded the girls to have a good time. 

“You know, that’s what it’s really about: enjoy yourself through the game of basketball,” said Gordon, who called basketball a “very expressive sport.”

In total, 1,000 Chicago Public Schools students from various neighborhoods participated in this year’s Jr. NBA Day, which ran from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. This is the fifth year the league has held this youth-focused event, which allows children the opportunity to be a part of All-Star Weekend. In addition to the all-girls session, two earlier sessions were co-ed. 

Chicago Bulls guard Coby White and NBA All-Star Domantas Sabonis, along with NBA legends such as Muggsy Bogues and Craig Hodges, who won two championships as a member of the Chicago Bulls, were among those who offered their expertise to boys and girls in the earlier sessions.