Utah Jazz: Team gives at-risk children 'once-in-a-lifetime' day

Published: Saturday, Oct. 27 2012 9:00 p.m. MDT

"I know how to deal with (kids), how to treat them, how to act with them, how to have fun with them," said Favors, adding that he's particularly empathic with this at-risk group, having had a cousin who went to jail. "I've been through stuff like that when I was their age. I know what they're going through."

Favors might've made the kids do the most push-ups. At his station, they either had to make a free throw or drop and give him five. He ribbed one good-natured shooter whenever he missed, saying things like, "Push-ups again?"

When it was mentioned that Favors should've been forced to do five push-ups for each make, he laughed. "Yeah, but they didn't say nothing, so I let it slide."

Of course he did.

Before the kids took to the court to go through part of the Jazz's daily routine, Corbin and Lindsey gave quick pep talks — delayed for a moment until after Bear twirled Utah director of basketball operations Richard Smith on his shoulders, sat on a front-row giggler, pulled a jersey over a boy's head and used a static-electricity rub to give a girl a wild hairdo.

Corbin encouraged the young visitors to be responsible for their own lives despite difficult circumstances. The coach informed them that he came from a single-parent home after his parents divorced at age 5 and that he grew up in the projects of Columbia, S.C. He never guessed he'd become an NBA coach, but going to school helped him live his dream.

"With education," Corbin told them, "you can achieve anything."

Lindsey joked that the kids now know who to blame (him) if the Jazz don't do well this season. More importantly, the new Jazz GM suggested they follow their leaders, learn to say "No" when friends try to steer them the wrong direction and try to make a career out of "something you love (and) get good at."

Shortly after the solid life advice and a loud "JAZZ!!!" holler, the group took to the team's practice floor to do squats, lateral slides, clapping games (with gimme-five consequences) and have the time of their young lives.

Usually, the kids spend about three hours every afternoon at the academy, receiving academic and character-building support. Eight percent of them have or had an incarcerated parent or family member and 75 percent have below-grade-level learning abilities, so they are in need of all the mentoring they can get.

"They're amazing kids," said Utah's U.S. Dream Academy center director, Kristina Muck. "I could not ask for a better job than to come be with these guys."

They were touched by the local NBA team, too.

"It's really wonderful the Jazz is willing to do this and just take an interest in the community and the kids," education specialist Fred Manar said. "A lot of times these kids don't get out of Glendale that much."

Each participant received a practice jersey and gifts, including a Jazz visor and blanket, as souvenirs of this unforgettable trip.

A smiling Williams said he was happy to play a role in their "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."

A smiling Favors was, too — even after getting booed for not doing a dunk on request. The 6-foot-10 big man jokingly faked an injury, then grinned while claiming he was wearing the wrong shoes and trying to be "extra cautious" with his new iPhone 5. (It's possible he was afraid of having to do push-ups had he missed the dunk.)

"It doesn't matter," Favors said, laughing when asked about getting booed. "All I got to do is go back around and crack some jokes with them. They'll forget about it."

The dunk maybe.

Certainly not the afternoon.

NOTE: The U.S. Dream Academy, part of the Dual Immersion Academy, is in need of volunteers. For information, go to usdreamacademy.org.

EMAIL: jody@desnews.com

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