Monday was back-to-school day for Dallas Independent School District and a lot of other areas around the Metroplex.

Any parent with teenagers knows that this time can be met with a loud groan and, perhaps, the phrase: “Will this school year ever end?”

But take it from a few members of the Mavericks who know the value of a good education. There are plenty of reasons to celebrate the start of the new school year.

“It’s the most important thing in life,” said J.J. Barea, who was pushed during his formative years to appreciate the opportunities schools offer. “You got to go to school. It’s where you learn discipline and what you like to do in life. You study, maybe you play sports. And the friends you make will be your best friends for life.

“School was super-important to my family. My dad was big on not missing a single day of school. I had perfect attendance a couple years straight. And it’s the best years. They got to enjoy these years.”

Barea, the 14-year NBA veteran guard who came out of Puerto Rico and had a four-year stay at Northeastern College in Boston, was joined by third-year forward Justin Jackson, Mavs’ CEO Cynt Marshall, DISD superintendent Dr. Michael Hinojosa and school board members at Dade Middle School just south of downtown on Monday for a rally welcoming back students.

The event, sponsored by Jefferson Dental Care, provided a Mavericks’ Fit Kit for all DISD students in the 6th through 12th grades (approximately 85,000 kids) as Barea, Jackson and Marshall stressed the importance of making healthy decisions at school and in life. Included in the Kit: a drawstring backpack, Mavs headphones, and Mavs FIT Healthy Choice Challenge Guide. Each of the DISD middle and high schools will receive a gymnasium set of Mavs basketballs, basketball bag, gym floor mats and a Mavs banner. These items were identified as some of the items of highest need by middle and high school teachers and coaches in the DISD schools.

“We got a chance to make a donation and participate in the first day of school for some middle schoolers and high schoolers,” Marshall said. “It means so much to us. And we got a chance to focus on fitness. These kids are our future. What I’m hoping they got out of it is how important education is. And you celebrate the first day of school. I’ve always done that with my kids.”

Marshall, who was decked out in a pair of Maverick blue, white and black pumps, said she’s always been a fan of “first-day-of-school pictures.” And also, second, third and last day of school pictures, too.

Having Jackson take part in the event was appropriate. He graduated from North Carolina earlier this summer, making good on a promise he made to his family after leaving the university after his junior year to join the NBA.

Jackson said he can’t emphasize enough the importance of schooling.

“Going to college will help you with life,” he said. “It’s a lot easier to get a job if you have a college degree. I will say college is not necessarily for everyone. And that’s totally OK. But if you decide to go and that’s what you want to do, it’s a great plan to help you go through life.

“But middle school and high school, that’s a given. Kids should definitely take that extremely seriously. That’s a great time period because you grow into yourself and learn a lot about yourself and the world. You find out a lot about yourself growing up, especially figuring out what you want to do when you grow up. I think that’s super-important.”

As Dr. Hinojosa told the several hundred kids at the Mavericks’ rally: “This the first day of the best year of your life.”

Barea, who also signed his contract for 2019-20 on Monday, and Jackson took part in a trivia quiz with several cheerleaders and band members from the 6th, 7th and 8th graders at Dade. As with everything players do, Jackson and Barea got a little competitive during the quiz, which also required the students to shoot free throws.

“I can’t let the young guy win at something like that,” Barea said afterward.

Meanwhile, Barea and Jackson both said they are getting geared up for the start of training camp on Sept. 30. Barea, who is coming off surgery to repair a torn Achilles, said he is on pace to be available at the start of camp.

“We’re in good shape,” he said. “I had a great week last week and we’re going to sit down with coach (Rick Carlisle) and Casey (Smith, Mavericks’ athletic trainer) and decide how we’re going to go when camp starts. But everything looks great.”

Twitter: @ESefko


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