By Brandon Robinson
New York Knicks guard Tim Hardaway Jr. returned to the Big Apple after competing against the U.S. National Team to share his story as part of the Citi Kids program, an educational and motivational community-based initiative for middle and high school students.
Some 200 students ages 6-12 from YMCAs in Flushing and Ridgewood were in attendance at Citi Field Aug. 4 to hear Hardaway share his passion for basketball and the steps he took to attain his dream of playing in the NBA.
“It’s important to stay dedicated and important to execute your plan,” Hardaway told the kids in attendance. “Your dreams will come true with a hard work ethic.”
He also talked to the kids about keeping good company, working on their craft daily and having fun in the process. The kids soaked up Hardaway’s message.
“I thought it was pretty cool that a professional basketball player would take the time to speak to us,” said Angelica Ferra, of Grover Cleveland High School.
Now in its sixth season, Citi Kids is an initiative for New York City middle and high school students developed by Citi in collaboration with the Mets and the Jackie Robinson Foundation.
Hardaway was named to the NBA All Rookie First-Team last season after averaging 10 points a game. He also threw out the first pitch that afternoon in a matchup between the Mets and San Francisco Giants. His pitch wasn’t a strike as it was a bit high, but it did get around the plate. His presence was all that mattered to the YMCA member.
“I know he was just away for the USA Basketball training and he came out to Queens,” said Jeffrey Zelaya, a camp counselor for YMCA of Flushing. “You don’t see many basketball players come out here.”
A native of Miami, Florida, Hardaway grew up with a love for the game of basketball. A second generation NBA basketball player, he is the son of retired Golden State Warriors and Miami Heat point guard Tim Hardaway Sr. He felt lucky to have the advantages of an NBA father, but also talked about the drawback.
“I let them know how hard my dad was working and not being able to see him that often was hurting,” Hardaway said. “But as you get older, you realize that he did that for the love of his sport and how many hours he put in and how dedicated he was to the sport. I learned from watching him.”
The hope is that the kids also learned from watching and listening to Hardaway.