By Jimmy Do | okcthunder.com
Squeals of sneakers and rhythmic thumps of the ball served as the soundtrack for an afternoon holiday party.
On Wednesday, the entire Blue team and coaching staff hosted a hoops clinic for athletes from Special Olympics Oklahoma.
The kids arrived at the Blue Practice Facility with much anticipation for the chance to work out with players and coaches. Once the sneakers were laced up, participants broke into groups to run through drill stations.
At one end of the court, Thunder two-way player Daniel Hamilton flashed his infectious smile and furiously clapped away as the Special Olympics athletes navigated their way around the cones through dribbling drills.
Fellow Thunder two-way player PJ Dozier was pumping his fists and doling out hand slaps at the layup lines. This was a chance for the players and coaches to connect with the kids through the game they know and love.
“It’s a great opportunity for us to be able to impact lives,” said Dozier. “It brings more joy to us than it does for them.”
While the hoops fundamentals brought the athletes together, it was the positive interactions during the workouts from the individual Blue players that made a profound impact on the boys and girls.
“We’re so appreciative of the Oklahoma City Blue opening up their facilities to work one-on-one with our athletes,” said Paige Martin, marketing manager for Special Olympics Oklahoma. “They just enjoy feeling being a part of something. I can’t ask more from these athletes to give them that opportunity.”
The enthusiasm from the special athletes fed the excitement of the day for Blue forward and Oklahoma City native Rashawn Thomas.
“To give back give someone else happiness is its own reward in itself,” said Thomas. “We just want to spread happiness give these kids a great time.”
Some of the young Special Olympians got one-on-one face time with Blue head coach Mark Daigneault for technique instruction and words of encouragement. For Daigneault, working with the kids provided a welcomed respite for the team amid the frenetic schedule of games and practices during the regular season.
“The season can be consuming because games come fast. Guys are working hard,” said Daigneault. “The community events are good because it allows us to step outside our normal routine and expand our perspective. It’s good for everybody.”
FUNdamentals. Hamilton cheers on participants during dribbling drills. Photo by Jimmy Do | OKC Thunder
Dozier on defense. Dozier leads a drill where participants work on moving laterally in a defensive stance from sideline to sideline. Photo by Jimmy Do | OKC Thunder
Getting buckets. Thomas: “You got to give energy to get energy; you have to give that environment for them to be comfortable and have fun.” Photo by Jimmy Do | OKC Thunder
Watch: OKC Blue Hosts Hoops Clinic for Special Olympics