By Naeisha Rose
More than 100 kids dressed in gray NBA shirts came out for the two-day Royal Ivey Life and Basketball Skills Clinic last week at Renaissance Middle School (IS 192) in St. Albans.
Royal Ivey, the former NBA player, current assistant coach of the Oklahoma City Thunder, and an IS 192 alum, was proud of the turnout and happy to help the youth of southeast Queens improve their skills on the court.
“This is great and we are in our 10th year,” said Ivey, beaming as he watched the young basketball stars in the making on the court working together in unison. “This is something to keep the kids off the streets. This is something positive that they can do and look forward to every summer before they have to go back to school. This is something positive for the whole family.”
Day One of the event had kids learning calisthenics, exercises that do not require equipment, and learneding how to improve their basketball technique. Professional coaches were on board to volunteer their time and show them proper structure on the court.
On Day Two, it was time for basketball games, skills contests, dancing, and music from ’80s hip-hop to present day hits. During the fun in the sun, parents sat back and relaxed under a tent as they watched their children play as the summer break draws to a close.
Antonio Menzis, of Rochdale Village, has two kids who came back to the basketball clinic this year.
“It’s a great event,” Menzis said. “My daughter has been coming every year since she was 4 — she is 10 now. Royal does a great job with them. I will definitely do this every year so that my kids can enjoy it.”
His daughter, Mia, and son, Antonio Jr., both hope to become professional basketball players. Antonio doesn’t know which team he wants to play for, but Mia knows exactly what she wants to do in the future.
“This event is really fun. I’ve been doing it since I was little,” Mia said. “I would like to join the New York Liberty after this.”
Menzis wasn’t the only parent who enjoyed the event.
“I love it,” said Carmela Nassa, who lives only a few blocks from the school, which is located at Hollis Avenue between 204th Street and Run DMC Grandmaster Jay Way. “They get more independence and focus. Earlier [Royal] said ‘It’s not all about the ball.’ He’s talking about having discipline in everything in life.”
Midway through the event students from the Devore Dance Center performed a hip-hop dance routine, and kids from the basketball camp jumped at a chance to win prizes for a free-style dance competition.
The swag up for grabs included autographed shoes, Jordan hats and school supplies. The event ended with a pizza party.
Ivey was a dancer at Cardozo High School and at Devore. He believes dance helped him with his skills on the court.
“We have a dance contest every year to promote creativity,” Ivey said. “Dance helped me with my vertical movement and my quickness.”
Ivey learned to dance jazz, modern, tap and ballet for six years during his time at Cardozo and Devore.
Ryan Woodworth, a fellow Cardoza and IS 192 alum, was proud of Ivey.
“He was a good teammate and a real good guy at Cardoza,” Woodworth said. “He’s doing a real good job bringing the kids out. This is a good thing for the community.”
Dr. Bob Lee, a host on WBLS 107.5, was happy to see someone from southeast Queens who made it big come back and do something for the community, too.
“They are helping others get what they need out of life,” Lee said. “Not everybody comes back to give back, so when they do come back, you got to take advantage of it. This helps to guide our youngsters and give them something positive to do.”
Reach reporter Naeisha Rose by e-mail at nrose