The chorus of tiny voices chanting in unison caught my attention.

“Jalen! Jalen!” they shouted.

A few weeks ago, I showed up to Mavs Hoop Camp for one of my first assignments as a Dallas Mavericks intern. Mavs rookie Jalen Brunson was there to surprise the youth and the scene felt all too familiar.

About a decade ago, I sat on the same hardwood each year for Mavs Hoop Camp. Now I am in my first month as a Dallas Mavericks communications and events intern and it’s been an eye-opening experience working with my favorite hometown basketball team.

I grew up about 50 miles from Dallas in Cleburne and each year my family would journey to Mavs games, events and Hoop Camp. From the moment I picked up the ball, my love for the game was born and those early fundamentals at camp played a key role in my career as I went on to play college basketball.

Participating in the Mavs Hoop Camp was one thing. But viewing the basketball world from behind-the-scenes has changed my vision and ignited a new love for the game.

It’s exhilarating. It’s an I-can’t-believe-I’m-really-here thrill each time I walk through the Dallas Mavericks’ doors.

As a child, I always anticipated lacing up my sneakers and rocking matching shirts with my group of friends as we attended Mavs Hoop Camp. It was more than a basketball camp. It was a place where we learned the game, but also gained wisdom, confidence and lifelong friendships.

Those memories returned a few weeks ago when I showed up to cover Brunson’s appearance at camp.

Everything felt familiar: the smiles, the smells, the energy, the rhythm of basketballs bouncing on the hardwood, the gaze and awe of the children when they caught sight of an NBA player. It was confirmation that my love for the game will never change.

Most of all, as a lifelong fan of the Mavericks, it proved that everything I thought of the franchise, team and players is real. Jalen exudes joy and he was excited to interact and work with the children.

He also spent time answering questions and playing different basketball games with the kids. I can say with confidence that he is the type of player I consider a great role model.

This camp was my first time working with Jalen and he is a man of great compassion and a mighty heart for all he does. I am happy that he is a member of our franchise and I know he will make a great impact on this community. He already has.

When I walked into the gym for Mavs Hoop Camp, I saw 100 versions of my younger self. The kids conversed loudly among themselves and tried to guess which NBA player would soon walk through the door. I stood there in awe and observed the excitement flow from eyes and smiles. Their joy gave me joy.

The humbleness and leadership qualities Jalen expressed, along with the Mavs staffers and employees, is what made me realize that this organization is something special. It’s so much bigger than basketball or a game. It’s a family and the children serve as the pulse in all we do.

Before camp started, we stood in the hallway with Jalen as he signed posters and I got goosebumps as the children chanted his name. I reflected on the saying: “You never fully comprehend how an experience is until you’ve experienced it.”

Over the last 20 years, I thought I’d experience a lot of what this game has to offer. I realize now I’ve barely scratched the surface of a game I love so much. I now realize there is an entire team behind the team and everyone carries out their roles with tremendous effort. It truly takes a village to make the operation work.

I am thankful to have a summer internship with the Dallas Mavericks and it’s a journey and opportunity I will never take for granted. It’s the same kind of pride the players carry. There is no offseason.

They give just as much effort working in the weight room or with the children at camp as they do on the basketball court during the season. What this organization stands for makes me grateful to be a part of it. It really is more than just a game.

Here I am with children at the Mavs Dance Camp earlier this week

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