Twenty Minneapolis youth basketball players made their way to The Courts at Mayo Clinic Square on Saturday, Dec. 14, for a brand relaunch hosted by the Timberwolves and Lynx Basketball Academy.
But Saturday wasn’t a typical afternoon of basketball. Rather, it was a celebration of what’s to come for the Academy and its youth basketball partnerships.
“What’s special about today is it’s a celebration not only of the kick-off of our brand but more importantly, it’s a celebration of youth basketball and the partnerships that we’re really unfolding,” Vice President of Basketball Development John Thomas said.
The young players began their clinic by sitting at midcourt where the Academy’s new brand was unveiled. Academy coaches and directors sported t-shirts that showcased the Academy’s new, clean logo, while banners with the new tagline “Elevate The Way You Play” surrounded the group.
“There are so many different ways we all play whether it’s on-court or off-court,” Thomas said. “We really want to take and be the champion for holistic development as a whole while still keeping the game fun for kids and making sure that we get them here but also across the street as well.”
Timberwolves head coach Ryan Saunders and Vice President of Referee Development Monty McCutchen were also in attendance and shared their messages before the playing began.
“It’s very important for — especially the Minneapolis community and surrounding areas — to invest in the youth and give them opportunities to grow with the game and us to grow with them as well,” Saunders said. “With that, you want to do that young.
“You want to help invest in the coaches as well so they’re teaching proper techniques and teaching things that we feel are going to be around for years to come — that’s the basic fundamentals, that’s the art of teamwork and then the art of sportsmanship, which is a big reason that the officials are so important to us.”
“In any aspect of team, we turn ourselves over to something bigger than ourselves, and officiating is no different,” McCutchen said. “We’re one of the three teams on the floor, albeit a small team of three individuals, but we really do take on that sense of service to that higher quality, that higher ideal that we’re trying to come together.”
Saunders and McCutchen admitted that they’ve shared their differences while McCutchen has officiated Saunders’ NBA games but emphasized the importance of learning to disagree respectfully.
“How we learn to disagree is an important skill in life,” McCutchen said. “It takes us past sport. I think officiating plays a good role in teaching our youth how to grow into themselves so that they can one, stand up for themselves, and two, be a part of something that is bigger than themselves.”
The Academy coaches took over from there and sent the players to the baseline where they warmed up with dynamic stretching before their half-hour of drill work. Players worked on ballhandling, driving to the hoop from the wing, closing out, enhancing their one-on-one moves, and polishing their jump shots all while Saunders made his way around to every station.
“I love being a part of something like this because it’s pure,” Saunders said. “When you’re in the NBA, sometimes you can get wrapped up in, ‘Hey, are we winning? Are we losing?’ as opposed to the process of things and what it took to get to this level. Seeing the hopes of youth players and seeing that they do want to get better, it can’t help but rejuvenate you.”
Players and coaches ended the afternoon by enjoying Freschetta pizza and further discussing what they learned from the Academy and its brand relaunch. The young players weren’t the only ones who benefited from their partnership with the Academy, either.
“That sense of joy that the children bring to this reminds you that life is good and it should be enjoyed with other people,” McCutchen said. “Today is a day of community and coming together, and that’s something to be happy about.”
The Academy is excited to engage with over 900 participants during its holiday clinics and is poised to create an unparalleled experience during the MLK Day Classic tournament in January. Stay up to date on all happenings by following the Academy on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook and joining its email list.
Tag(s): The Academy Rebrand