In a span of several years, Jaden Clemons went from being a participant in the Dallas Mavericks Hoop Camp to becoming one of the top high school basketball prospects in the state of Texas.
Rivals.com has Clemons listed as the No. 55 top player in the state, including the No. 9 top point guard. Not bad for a 16-year old who also served as a Mavs Ballkid during the team’s home games from 2018-20.
Clemons acknowledged that many of life’s important tools that he’s learned came during his time as a Mavs Ballkid and while being instructed by Ben Hunt, who is Mavs’ youth basketball director.
“Being a Ballkid, honestly, I feel like I learned professionalism just by having to be professional because that was a huge thing,” Clemons said. “Being a Ballkid, not only was it fun, but it’s like a real job.
“You really had to communicate with coach Ben and you had to communicate with your co-workers. So communication and professionalism, those are two things that I’ve learned from being a Ballkid.”
Hunt noted that Clemons stood out as a camper in a positive manner for numerous reasons.
“His leadership, his ability to work well with others, and he’s very coachable,” Hunt said. “And due to those three traits and many more, he got an invitation and an application to be part of the Dallas Mavericks Ballkids program, which for us is a program that’s been going on for 25 years and one that we’re very proud of, because it gives our campers an opportunity to experience a game night, but also to learn many life lessons along the way, listen to some phenomenal guest speakers that come and talk to them and ultimately for us can help them in the future.”
Clemons will never forget the day one of those guest speakers came and spoke at the Dallas Mavericks Hoop Camp. It was the legendary Dirk Nowitzki, and to say that Clemons was in awe would be a huge understatement.
“I remember going to the camp and high-fiving Dirk a couple of years ago and not wanting to wash my hand,” Clemons said while laughing. “I remember when I was playing a game at PSA and I saw Jason Terry back in our (2011) championship run days. . .and he actually stayed and watched my game.
“The community the Mavs have built is so awesome, especially being a kid growing up, going to the camps, meeting the players. This is such a great experience and it’s just things I’ll never forget.”
Even at his tender age, Clemons has already accomplished plenty. Not only is the 6-2, 175-pound playmaker one of the top players in the state, but he also has a 4.1 grade point average at Hebron High School.
Plus, he knows the value of an education.
“Education is so important to me because, God willing, I might not always have basketball, so I need something to fall back on,” Clemons said. “That’s why education is important to me.”
It’s no surprise to Hunt that Clemons has placed a high value on education.
“The beauty of our Ballkids program and one that we’re looking to expand within our Mavs Academy programs is the continuous impact of our campers,” Hunt said. “They can be part of programs where we can continue to help them grow through their teenage years, through their middle school and high school years so when they obviously get a chance to go off to college – and it may work out for Jaden as well – that if there’s an opportunity for him and he would like to come back and be one of our camp coaches, we have that opportunity as well for our graduating Ballkids.
“We have many graduates of our Ballkids program in our camp coaching network. So once they graduate from high school, they get a chance to go to college, they get a chance to put on their resume that they’re part of the Dallas Mavericks Ballkids program and the Dallas Mavericks’ family, and that goes a long ways.”
Actually, Clemons’ experience as a Mavs camper and Ballkid has already had an indelible impact on him as he’s currently a student coach at his high school’s summer camp.
“At my local high school that I attend, I coach the kids that are feeding into our high school program, which is pretty cool,” said Clemons, who will be a junior at Hebron this fall. “I use some of the drills that I grew up in Mavs’ camp and translate those at the camp coaching these kids.”
In addition to heavy influence from his parents, Clemons said the light switch moments in his life have come from Hunt.
“I describe coach Ben as a mentor, especially because whenever we’re in the BallKid room there’s always some knowledge that he gives to us and there’s always things that I take away from him,” Clemons said. “I feel like a lot of it was centered around preparation, so thanks to coach Ben I feel like I will always be prepared for anything that life throws at me.
“He was definitely very influential to me, even to this day.”
So what exactly are the responsibilities of a Mavs Ballkid like Clemons?
“Jaden’s responsibilities on game night were obviously greeting our fans and season ticket holders as they came into the arena, and welcoming them,” Hunt said. “He had the responsibilities of showing them onto the floor and to their seats, courtside.
“And obviously, too, the biggest responsibility of any game night is player safety on the floor. And he was part of that and took care of the moisture control on the floor when needed, and for us and for our organization and especially our team and player safety, that’s number one.”
Before all of that, Clemons found time to earn a black belt in taekwondo. And that served as another avenue where he developed some life-long relationships.
“It was pretty difficult,” Clemons said. “That was the first really, really challenging thing in my life just because I started at such a young age.
“That was really difficult mainly because it was non-stop, it was really competitive because not everybody would be able to move up to the next belt every time we had a test. It’s something that really taught me perseverance and just not giving up, because there were so many times where I felt like giving up. That was just a great experience for me.”
Neither Clemons nor Hunt is sure if Clemons will be part of the Mavs Ballkids program going forward.
“I’m going to reach back out and obviously make sure that if he’s in position to – it’s a big commitment on the family to be part of the program with our game night responsibilities,” Hunt said. “It’s one that the whole family has been involved in and embraced and been great supporters of our program, and obviously Jaden, too, so it’s pretty cool.”
Indeed, the Mavs Ballkids program afforded Clemons so many life-altering moments.
“The Mavs have been very important to me throughout my life, just being around the Mavericks’ community,” Clemons said. “It’s just a happy place to be, such a positive place to be. Everybody is so welcoming.”
Hunt echoed that sentiment.
“For Jaden, for him to have the ability to be a leader within the Ballkid group, but to have the responsibility on game night too of taking care of player safety on the floor, that’s not an easy job,” Hunt said. “It’s one that comes with a lot of responsibility, and he did a tremendous job of that.
“So as part of the Dallas Maverick Ballkid program and Mavs’ family — and he obviously started out as a camper — he’s come a long way. And we’re very proud of him.”