DALLAS – The Mavs Academy is officially back open for business for in-person camps, clinics and events and the franchise aims to once again reach the top student-athletes across North Texas.  

Back in May 2019, the Mavs Academy became the first NBA team to host a pro-style combine for elite players. COVID-19 health and safety protocols then forced the Mavs to put in-person events on pause for over 14 months, but those restrictions have now been lifted.

Last weekend, the Mavs Academy officially welcomed back dozens of boys and girls for the 2021 Mavs Middle School Combine, an event that featured some of the best sixth through eighth graders across the region.

“It’s important for us to be in the gym with these kids because we bring NBA knowledge to youth basketball at the elite level,” said Brad Freeman, Dallas Mavericks Director of Youth Basketball (Elite). “We are excited that we can be a part of elite basketball because the NBA is allowing teams to work with elite-level youth players.”

The event was at Dallas Carter High School and tested the student-athletes’ strength, endurance and on-court skills in a simulated environment that replicated the NBA Draft Combine. Area varsity coaches ran the drills, assisted by Mavs Academy staff and other leaders within the organization.

Staff from Scottish Rite for Children Orthopedic and Sports Medicine Center performed anthropometric measurements and joint evaluations. Scottish Rite for Children has long been a proud supporter of the Mavs Academy. The world-renowned medical specialists at the hospital and medical center care for children and young athletes throughout the region.

Freeman said that players were identified by high school basketball coaches in the area. Eighth graders who attended the 2019 Mavs Combine also received invites.

Jordan Vasquez is a seventh-grade shooting guard who participated in the Mavs Middle School Combine. He said the event was beneficial in many ways and helped solidify his dreams to someday play in the NBA.

“It’s just a great experience to see all the different athletes, who are the best in DFW, and to compete against them,” Vasquez said. “It’s been a great experience to learn about the competition and what I’m able to go against.”

To jump-start the 2021 Mavs Middle School Combine, each player received a jersey and shorts and then received instruction and motivational talks from top basketball coaches and leaders, many of them former professional and college basketball players.

Former Dallas Mavericks player and current Mavs Ambassador, Cedric Ceballos, was among those chosen to speak to the youth players. Ceballos played in over 600 NBA games during his career. He was also the 1992 NBA Slam Dunk Contest champion.

“This is an opportunity to help youth basketball continue to grow,” Ceballos said. “That’s what it’s all about. I mean, I’ve been so fortunate to have a great career in basketball. And I got a little bit of insight on what goes on. So I want to try to extend (that knowledge) to others. This combine puts the younger kids in a situation to prepare them and actually gives them a measuring stick. So this is great for the boys and for the girls.”

Ceballos also shared that the middle school age is a crucial time of development for young student-athletes.

“I think the most important thing, especially if you’re just starting out, is the footwork,” Ceballos added. “Basketball is a very balanced game.”

He also noted what an extraordinary experience it is for the youth to get invited to events like the Mavs combine because exposure to various leaders in the game of basketball will give the student-athletes an edge amongst their peers.

“When I was growing up, I didn’t have an opportunity to see any former or current NBA players,” Ceballos said. “When I come out here, some of the kids obviously don’t know me because of the distance between years. But this is their opportunity to do their homework. They can study the past and present to know exactly how to get better.

“Some of the greats in the game right now, players like Luka Doncic, they all do their homework. They study the game from the past to the present. They know exactly how to get better. So environments like this give the kids a chance to ask questions with players who have been there. It can help their game a lot.”

After hearing inspirational talks from coaches and former players, the student-athletes then hit the court to test their lateral quickness and ability to change directions at a high speed. They also showcased their basketball skills against some of the other top athletes in the area.

With the help of performance basketball coaches on site, the student-athletes then recorded their scores to help track their progress before they hit their developmental growth spurt.

Aomani Woldai was selected to attend this year’s Mavs Middle School Combine. She said the entire experience was something she’ll never forget.

“What I learned (today) is that you can always ask questions,” she said. “You can be comfortable.”

She said that it’s important for girls to play sports and she’s proud to be a young woman who plays basketball.

“The game has brought happiness to me; it’s brought closer friends,” Woldai shared. “It’s also brought a lot of competition and aggressiveness to me. So I know that when I’m bold, I can do what I want to do.”

Lessons like this are exactly why the Mavericks recently launched a new girls-inspired initiative known as GEM – which stands for Girls Empowered by Mavericks. The program aims to engage, inspire and empower young females (9-14) using physical activity as a backdrop for their continued development and success. Girls will learn to value their whole self; discover and develop their inherent strengths; and receive the support they need to navigate the challenges they face.

The Mavericks will also host the All-Girls Hoop Camp from June 7-11 at Sportsplex at Valley View and July 12-16 at Duncanville Fieldhouse. Registration is still open here.

Former Division I basketball player and Harlem Globetrotter, Joyce Ekworomadu, said she believes that women and young girls continue to play an important role in the game of basketball.

Her story is one of overcoming adversity and trailblazing the way for the next generation of young women to compete at a high level in the game. Ekworomadu was born to Nigerian parents and wasn’t heavily recruited by major Division I schools. She later enjoyed a successful career at Texas State, but then was cut in the WNBA. However, she continued to preserve and made a career playing for the National Nigerian team; she also logged time competing oversees in Poland and Italy before becoming the 12th female Harlem Globetrotter in history.

Ekworomadu said it was an honor to participate in the middle school combine and said it’s important for people like her to give back to the game and youth.

“Basketball is my passion,” she said. “I’ve done everything I could possibly do as a player. And I believe every time I’ve tried to step away from the sport, it always finds its way back. So I know that my God-given talent is to motivate and inspire kids. And so using basketball as a tool, it just seems like a no brainer. So that’s my motivation. The kids inspire me to become a better trainer. I hope to continue to reach them in any way that I can and just continue to give them the knowledge that they need.”

Freeman, with the Mavs Academy, said it’s an exciting time for the organization now that the Mavericks can hold in-person events again with the youth. The combine was just the start of a full plate of activities planned this summer.

He said education is the first step in developing elite student-athletes.

“We’re trying to give them the greater concept of the game of basketball…which is relationships. What is the relationship they have with their coach, their parents and even officials? We’re also trying to educate the parents on the importance of officials. They are human, they are going to make mistakes, but there’s teaching opportunities that a parent can have with their child. Those opportunities will help these players down the road, not just athletically, but in their life. So we’ve provided them with some materials, some handouts…to not only inspire them in the game of basketball, but inspire them for the rest of their life.”


Calling all parents and student-athletes! The Mavs Academy will host in-person events again this summer at select locations across the region. The Mavs Academy brings the excitement of the NBA to your community and is the most-trusted source for basketball, dance and gaming for all skill levels. Our team of professional Mavs Academy coaches share leadership skills, health tips and encourage your student-athletes to have fun while they learn. To learn more about our upcoming camps, click here.

The Mavericks will also host the All-Girls Hoop Camp from June 7-11 at Sportsplex at Valley View and July 12-16 at Duncanville Fieldhouse. Registration is still open here.



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