Retired NBA player Felipe Lopez held an NBA Cares clinic in Poughkeepsie, inside the Family Partnership Center’s gym on April 18, PoughkeepsieJournal reported.
“Switch! Switch!” the former NBA player called out with a smile, as he watched nearly 60 young athletes charge from one hoop to the next.
Lopez led the clinic, directing a collection of area players ranging from the fourth through eighth grades through various shooting, dribbling and fitness drills for nearly 90 minutes.
Lopez has not played in an NBA regular-season game since 2002, when his four-year career ended with a torn left anterior cruciate ligament.
Consequently, few players in attendance had ever seen the shooting guard, who starred for Rice High School and St. John’s University, in action. Still, Lopez knew how to grab the group’s attention in his opening address.
“I’ve been doing this for so long that I’ve already seen some of you guys make it to the NBA,” he said, listing the Cleveland Cavaliers’ Luol Deng and the Toronto Raptors’ Greivis Vasquez. “I coached those guys. They were sitting right there, same place that you guys are sitting. Right now, they’re stars.”
With the help of volunteers, both from the local area and from the NBA, Lopez directed a spirited practice. Players were encouraged to clap for each other through each drill and be especially generous with their high-fives.
The former professional ran through each drill several times throughout the day, took part in the calisthenic exercises along with the group, and even handed out water bottles.
“I think it’s, first of all, just a positive experience for our kids in Poughkeepsie,” Poughkeepsie head basketball coach Brian Laffin said, “to be part of this today, to see that the NBA as an organization isn’t just about the games you see on TV, but also reaching out into the community.”
That’s not to say the day was without discipline. When the kids’ enthusiasm grew too rambunctious, and when the kids balked at 10 post-practice pushups, Lopez paused to deliver a sermon.
“If you are complaining right now by just doing some pushups, imagine having to push somebody off the block, or having to play somebody that’s a lot better than you,” he told them, before assigning five additional pushups. “Let’s start doing these pushups because they’re only going to help you be better in the basketball game.”
Lopez, who said he enjoyed the scenic drive north from his home in Riverdale, said he aims to teach the kids in his clinics to pay attention to every detail, both on the court and in life, as it may be the difference between success and failure.
“We have seen so many great products come out of these events,” he said. “And because this is a once-in-a-lifetime event for a lot of these youth, you want to make sure that they fully get the whole treatment, so when they do move on to a different level, to the next level, they are able to understand that what we do here, it correlates with all the things in life as well.”
“They just want to play and play and play. They have a lot of time to play during the day, but when it’s time to work, we got to make sure we get that work in,” Lopez said.
Lopez played 4 seasons in the NBA, for Vancouver Grizzlies, Washington Wizards, and Minnesota Timberwolves. He appeared in total of 249 games (starting in 80), averaging 5.8 ppg, 2.4 rpg in 16.6 mpg.Follow @exnbadotcom
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