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NBA names Junior Jazz the league's top youth program

Published: Wednesday, April 16 2014 3:45 p.m. MDT

Coach Scott Potter brings his team in for a cheer during a Junior Jazz basketball game at the Cottonwood Heights Recreation Center Saturday, Jan. 23, 2010. Jason Olson, Deseret News (Jason Olson, Deseret News) Coach Scott Potter brings his team in for a cheer during a Junior Jazz basketball game at the Cottonwood Heights Recreation Center Saturday, Jan. 23, 2010. Jason Olson, Deseret News (Jason Olson, Deseret News)

The Junior Jazz youth basketball program, which completed its 31st season in 2014, was honored by the NBA, named the league's best youth program at a recent meeting in Orlando.

“This award is shared with all the recreational centers, clubs and community centers that partner with the Jazz to provide a tremendous youth experience that teaches fundamental basketball skills and connects to the game at the professional level,” Utah Jazz president Randy Rigby said in a statement. “Junior Jazz has touched many lives through the years with an emphasis on being active, having fun and displaying good sportsmanship.”

The Jazz organization said that the Junior Jazz program annually has more than 50,000 youth participants and 13,000 volunteers in a seven-state region. According to a team statement, "Junior Jazz emphasizes the development of teamwork, fundamental basketball skills and fun. Members include kindergarteners through 12th-graders, many of whom return year after year."

Jazz guard Diante Garrett leads a group of students as they cheer 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)

In addition to playing in basketball games, the Junior Jazz program allows youth several opportunities to interact and learn from Jazz players. In January and February, Jazz players helped host 14 clinics at area schools and facilities for Junior Jazz participants.

The Utah franchise also hosted a Junior Jazz Sportsmanship Party at EnergySolutions Arena at the end of the season. The party — with nearly 1,000 boys and girls in attendance as well as Jazz players Rudy Gobert, Malcolm Thomas and Marvin Williams — rewarded teams "that best exemplified sportsmanlike conduct throughout the season."

In addition, Jazz players join in a regional tour every summer, conducting basketball clinics and signing autographs while interacting with youth. According to the Jazz organization, last year's three-week tour that covered Utah, Nevada, Wyoming and Nevada included 42 clinics and 2,000 youth participants.

Seven and eight year olds scramble for the ball during a Junior Jazz basketball game at the Cottonwood Heights Recreation Center Saturday, Jan. 23, 2010. (Jason Olson, Deseret News) Seven and eight year olds scramble for the ball during a Junior Jazz basketball game at the Cottonwood Heights Recreation Center Saturday, Jan. 23, 2010. (Jason Olson, Deseret News)

Email: bjudd@deseretnews.com; Twitter: @brandonljudd

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