By Walt Johnson
FORT CARSON, Colorado – Fort Carson Sports Child and Youth Services (CYS) hosted a free basketball skills camp at the youth center on September 18, 2021 for 120 young athletes.
The camp was hosted and co-sponsored by the Gold Crown Foundation, featuring Denver Nuggets player Zeke Nnaji, University of Colorado-Colorado Springs basketball players, and hosted by the Sports Services Office to the childhood and youth of Fort Carson.
The camp gave the young athlete the opportunity to learn about basketball and other life lessons from professional and college athletes, said Otis Forrest, athletic director of CYS.
âIt was a great opportunity for our young athletes,â said Forrest. âWe are always very grateful to Bill Hanzlik of the Gold Crown Foundation, the Denver Nuggets organization, the UCCS basketball program, led by Jeff Culver. And of course, the people of Fort Carson who make this day possible. I am thrilled with the lessons the children were able to learn today, and I am so thankful that we can have a quality program like this for our youth in Fort Carson.
UCCS head basketball coach Culver and his team made their second visit to the Mountain Post in the past two years for the event. He said that whenever his team can give back to the community and work with local children, they are more than willing and enthusiastic. Being able to work with military families was something he and his players didn’t want to pass up.
âWhenever we can get out into the community to work with youth, we look forward to these opportunities,â Culver said. âWhen Coach Hanzlik asked us to come and support this program, it was an easy ‘yes’ for us. Our guys had a great time a few years ago, and we missed being able to be here last year, so we were so glad we could come back here today.
Culver said the event meant a lot to him and his team and he hopes the young athletes will learn lifelong lessons.
âThe biggest lesson we think kids will learn from our players today isn’t about basketball,â Culver said. âWhile we will be doing basketball drills with the kids, we also want our guys to interact with them and talk to them about what they’re studying in college and why grades are so important. We also want to talk to them about making good decisions in life. It also gives us a chance to have fun in association with the game while giving back to our community. “
David Jabedo, a member of the UCCS team and a prominent alumnus of Sand Creek High School in Colorado Springs, said his own education was one reason he wanted to be a part of the camp.
âI actually went to Camp Melo (NBA player Carmelo Anthony) in Denver when I was younger, and I share that experience with my friends all the time,â he said. âWhat stood out to me was how enjoyable it was at this age to be surrounded by professional athletes. I’m sure the kids here will feel the same when they hang out with collegiate athletesâ¦ when they grow up.
The star athlete of the event was Nnaji, the 6-foot-10 Nuggets player who attended school at the University of Arizona. Nnaji walked into the youth center complex and interacted with the young athletes and said it is valuable to give back to the community that supports him.
âI realize how important it is to help the next generation of children grow up and be successful so that they understand how to be leaders in the future,â Nnaji said.
âI often went to these kinds of events when I was a kid. I remember the first one I went to was in kindergarten. I went to basketball camps, soccer camps, and soccer camps. These are some of my best childhood memories. I remember playing with my friends in these camps, and I think being here today and being a part of it is something very special for me and will be special for the kids in the future.
Nnaji also showed the children that he was more than an athlete towards the end of the camp as he sat at a piano and played a song that made young children and adults at the youth center applaud.