Utah Jazz commit kids to fitness

Published: Thursday, March 20 2014 5:20 p.m. MDT

Jazz guard Diante Garrett leads a group of students as they cheer "Hard work!" at West Lake Junior High School in West Valley City on Thursday, March 20, 2014.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

WEST VALLEY CITY — Diante Garrett always knew he'd play professional basketball.

Garrett joined his school's team as soon as he could — in the fourth grade.

But to see an athlete he was used to watching on television in person would've been "a spectacular thing," the Utah Jazz guard said Thursday.

"I never had that chance," he said.

Garrett changed the game for about 100 middle schoolers at West Lake Junior High on Thursday, teaching them how to dribble the basketball one-on-one.

"I like to see the smile on their faces," he said.

In addition to getting some court time with Garrett, students learned dance moves from Jazz dancers, fitness routines from the Jazz stunt team, and got tips from the team's basketball operations director, Richard Smith.

"You've got to pick something you like to do that involves physical activity and do it often," Utah Jazz broadcaster Steve Brown told the kids. "I guarantee it will help you enjoy life much better, and you'll be healthier."

Thursday was the fifth of 10 Jazz Fit clinics, an extension of NBA Fit, conducted by the Jazz organization at junior high schools within the Salt Lake City School District since January. Students are invited to participate at each of the schools based on their fitness levels or because they earned the opportunity, said West Lake physical education coach Shauna Morley, a self-proclaimed Jazz fan.

"Hopefully this will motivate them to be fit," Morley said. "We want to get them actively involved."

Eighth-grader Daisy Esquivel said it was fun meeting the Jazz dancers in person. She even follows the team's performance a little and often plays basketball with her friends.

"This was a cool thing to do today," she said.

Instilling strong fitness commitments, Morley said, is "extremely important at this age."

She said some are relatively sedentary because they go home to an empty house, but even more, she blames teenagers' penchant for fast food.

"The idea is to get kids interested in fitness, anything to get them going and out of the video game mentality and hopefully create a little bit of an enjoyment in doing something physical that they will carry through their life," Brown said. "Even if they wind up with a sedentary job, hopefully there's an interest created in doing something."

Being active, he said, "makes a difference."

And even seventh-grader Malachi Lolin, who classifies his own fitness level as "standard," said he could improve.

"I need to exercise every day," he said, adding that seeing Garrett on Thursday helped him commit to a healthier lifestyle.

Email: wleonard@deseretnews.com, Twitter: wendyleonards

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