After the overwhelming success he enjoyed with his inaugural free basketball camp last summer, Jaden Hardy wasHardy hellbent on running it back this year.

A group of 105 kids from the third through 10th grades assembled Saturday at the June Shelton School and Evaluation Center in North Dallas for the Second Annual Jaden Hardy Basketball Camp, And no one had as much fun as Hardy himself. That’s because, when it comes to basketball camps, Hardy has been there, done that.

“That’s where I started — in camps like the one I’m having today,” Hardy told  “I used to go to camps like this – NBA players’ camps — and I used to look up to them and they used to tell me the same thing.

“Now, it’s my turn to give back.”

A second-year guard with the Dallas Mavericks, Hardy had a group of men and women – including current Mavs forward Greg Brown III, Hardyformer Mavs players Morlon Wiley and Josh Howard – and Hardy’s brother (Amauri) and father (Ramsey) and Top Achievers president Lawrence Mann – teaching kids the finer things about basketball and life.

For Hardy, this whole concept was a no-brainer.

“I just wanted to be able to give back to the kids in the community and have them get a chance to come out and learn from me and be able to see me,” he said. “And I just wanted to talk to them and let them know that their dreams are achievable.

“I feel like with them being able to see guys like me that’s in the NBA, if they have that dream, too (of playing pro basketball), I feel like it makes their dream feel like it’s more achievable. So, that’s what I’m here for.”

A member of the Top Achievers fifth grade select basketball team, 11-year old Luiza Figueiredo said she learned plenty in this camp that lasted six hours.Hardy

“Today, I learned how to slip,” Figueiredo said. “That’s when you go and set the screen, but you just roll to the basket. You don’t have to set the screen. You can just roll to the basket.”

Creed Houston, who made the three-hour drive from Chickasaw, OK, to North Dallas with his father to participate in this camp, also learned the intricacies of the pick-and-roll play. In addition, he walked away with something of even more importance.

“I like having competition versus other people,” the 10-year old Houston said. “It’s fun playing against people in Texas.”

As the day progressed and lunch was in the books, Figueiredo noticed how she and the other campers bonded together while they were Cyntlearning things to put in their basketball toolbox.

“I like how you have to work together with your teammates,” she said. “And it’s just a lot of fun when you have some good competition. I just like a fast-paced game.”

Adding another layer to this day of learning, a special guest stopped by to surprise the campers. It was Cynt Marshall, the chief executive officer for the Mavs.

“I just came by to say hello and just basically give you a little message,” Marshall told the campers. “No. 1, I’m proud to work for the Dallas Mavericks.

“What I really like is I get to serve people. I get to serve 300 people every day, and I get to serve about 20,000 customers 41 times in our home arena (inside American Airlines Center), and then our away fans in the away games. When you serve, you have to have a set of values. It’s the foundation that you stand on.”

Marshall went through the Mavs’ set of values, which spell C.R.A.F.T.S. That’s the acronym for Character, Respect, Authenticity, Fairness,Hardy Teamwork and Safety.

“My final message is the ball is in your hands,” Marshall told the campers. “And when I’m talking about the ball, I’m talking about the ball of life, the choices you make, the decisions that you make, the people who you choose to run with, your friends.

“Always make sure you keep good company, that you have a safe playing field, and that you are doing what the great adults in your life are telling you to do. Your future is in your hands. We’re all here to help you, but you have decisions that you have to make every day.”

When he was a kid, the decisions Hardy made were to attend basketball camps in his hometown of Detroit hosted by former Detroit Pistons’ players Richard “Rip” Hamilton, Rasheed Wallace, Lindsey Hunter and Greg Kelser. From that, he felt one day that this significant role would fall on his lofty shoulders.

Well, that day has arrived.

“That’s the belief I have in myself and the belief I have in God,” Hardy said. “I feel like He had a plan for me – for me to be in the NBA.”

Of his affinity for playing basketball, Houston said: “It keeps you in shape. And it’s fun shooting the ball and making it in the basket.”

HardyBoth Figueiredo and Houston were appreciative of Hardy for taking the time to offer a free camp for them and their newfound friends.

“Thank you for giving all the kids an opportunity to be here and to just have fun and get better,” Figueiredo said. “It’s been a lot of fun.

“I went to this camp last year. It was also a blast.”

Like the campers, Hardy also had a blast.

“This is what I love,” he said. “I love being around the game of basketball, I love being around kids, and I love for them to be able to learn.”

X: @DwainPrice

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