By Joel Hall
Four years ago, Jordan Brand, a subsidiary of Nike, Inc., began sponsoring the Jordan Training Tour to bring free, professional basketball training to youth in urban areas. On Wednesday, 100 would-be stars gathered at Hoops & Fitness in Jonesboro.
Jonesboro was the second stop in the three-day Atlanta area leg of the tour.
In the morning, professional trainers rated every student's agility and in the late morning and afternoon. Included in the group was Dorian Lee, a professional basketball trainer and owner of Hoops & Fitness. He led youngsters in a variety of drills aimed at addressing their weak points.
Lee said the clinic -- which is free and provides every participant with free lunches, shirts, towels, bags, and instructional videos -- gives students in the metro Atlanta area access to a level of training that may otherwise be unattainable.
"The demographic is here and some of them don't have the access," said Lee. "We want to make sure the access is here."
Lee, a former shooting guard for Bishop State Community College (Mobile, Ala.), the University of North Florida (Jacksonville, Fla.), and Spring Hill College (Mobile, Ala.), makes a living turning young players into pros. While having personally trained three National Basketball Association (NBA) players and players in other professional leagues, Lee said this is the first time Hoops & Fitness has ever been able to host the Jordan Training Tour.
In addition to drills to increase speed, strength, vertical leap, passing, dribbling, defense, and shooting, the program also works with young athletes on social skills, such as how to conduct themselves during an interview.
"It's so important because athletes find themselves in many tough situations based on the things they say," said Lee. "We want them to be able to hold on to something so they can be successful in the corporate world, or in any other endeavor."
For the last year, Gardenia Wilson, 16, who will be a junior at Frederick Douglass High School in Atlanta , has participated in B'Ball 101, a year-round training program sponsored by Hoops & Fitness. She said she jumped at the chance to be involved in the Jordan Training Tour.
"It's not a regular basketball camp," said Wilson. "They show you what your strengths and weaknesses are, then they tell you how you can improve those weaknesses.
Wilson said the camps help not only with "ball training," but with "real life" issues.
Lincoln Parker, director of the Jordan Training Tour, said this year is the second year the tour has come to the Atlanta area. The tour, which has already made stops in Oakland, Calif., Phoenix, Ariz., Houston, Texas, Chicago, Ill., and Philadelphia, Pa., will end on Aug. 7 in Los Angeles, Calif.
"The essence of this program is to provide a valuable service to kids in the community for free," said Parker. "Usually this kind of training would cost $200 an hour, because everybody here is certified.
"A lot of kids play basketball, but they don't get the training," Parker added. "We want the kids to see the value of training and preparation in basketball, but also in life."
For more information, go to www.bball101.com or www.hoopsking.com.