SALT LAKE CITY — As a member of the Utah Jazz, Royce O’Neale spends the majority of his time in Salt Lake City.
But deep down, he’s a Killeen, Texas, boy at heart and isn’t ashamed of his upbringing.
So much so that on Saturday, July 27, he’s bringing a free summer basketball camp to his alma mater, Harker Heights High School, for kids in grades 3-12.
“For myself it’s important, because growing up I think going to the gyms and playing with older players, they gave me advice and told me to pursue my dreams,” O’Neale told the Deseret News. “In Killeen, we didn’t really have like people give back to the younger generations and have camps for kids to get better, so I want to give back and show my love for the city.”
O’Neale’s unique path as an undrafted free agent to NBA contributor continues to inspire the next generation of basketball players in his community that also produced pro players Cory Jefferson and D.J. Stephens.
During the playoffs, he even relished the role of defending Houston Rockets star James Harden in Utah’s first-round series in his home state where he upped his scoring average from 5.2 points to 10.6 per game during that five-game stretch.
“I know it’s kids who look up to me or call me their idol and just give them the opportunity to enhance their skills and have fun,” O’Neale said. “Killeen is where I grew up and made me the person who I am, and just to be doing something like this makes me feel good and allows me to do something positive for the city and have impact on the young kids.”
Details on registration will be available soon, but his high school coach, Celneque Bobbitt, has already committed to making sure things are run smoothly.
Bobbitt has also fulfilled a father figure role in O’Neale’s life since he was in diapers and is honored to help with the process of his inaugural camp.Comment on this story
“Ultimately, it’s great to have kids come back and give back and not want anything in return and that’s just how Royce has always been, just a big silent assassin,” Bobbitt said. “I couldn’t get no words out of Royce.
"When he was a baby, my wife would have him over to the house and we would try to make him walk up the steps and he was scared of steps. He was a 'Lion King' boy, you wouldn’t even hear the boy cry and just a silent type of guy and that’s what we see right now," he continued. "Royce had humble beginnings and it’s good when people don’t change.”