Tennessee's Jordan McRae participates in a friendly pickup game during Friday's S.H.O.T. clinic at Sullivan North in Kingsport. (Ned Jilton II photo)
(Photo gallery at the end of the story)
KINGSPORT — Statewide Hoops Outreach Tour, or S.H.O.T. to keep it simple. That’s the name of the series of clinics Tennessee basketball coach Cuonzo Martin, members of his staff and his players are presenting throughout the state.
The tour stopped at Sullivan North High School on Friday and gave a group of kindergarten through sixth-grade youngsters an opportunity to learn and work on their hoops skills.
“Two seasons ago we began brainstorming for ideas to reach out to different cities throughout the state and the staff came up with the idea for the S.H.O.T. clinics,” Martin said.
The clinics include drills, talks about the importance of life skills and character, as well as a question-and-answer session with the coaches and players.
“This is our second one. We were in Cleveland earlier this week, and the response has been great,” Martin said. “We try to keep it at around 75 kids so they can get in a good workout. We will do the same workouts that the UT players do in practice.”
Two of the first campers to hit the floor were the brother-sister duo of Kayli and Jacoby Dunn.
Kayli had the distinction of being the only female on the court — not that she was deterred. She wasn’t quite sure if girls were going to be allowed, but she had packed her socks and shoes to be prepared.
When the clinic officials said she was more than welcome, she made a simple clothing change and was quickly on the court warming up.
“I know this will be fun and hope to work on my dribbling. Especially behind the back and between the legs,” Kayli said.
Her brother was proud to sport the mohawk of his favorite NBA player, Chris “Birdman” Andersen of the Miami Heat.
“I just want to learn to dunk like the Birdman,” Jacoby said.
Guard Jordan McRae was among the UT players taking part in the clinic. Last season, McRae led the Volunteers in scoring with a 15.7 average and made the All-Southeastern Conference first team. Earlier this week, he was ranked the No. 6 guard in the nation by Sporting News.
“I didn’t get the opportunity for camps like this when I was younger, so I like seeing the excitement on the youngsters’ faces, especially when they know you by name,” McRae said.
Being named one of the top collegiate guards in the country won’t keep McRae from continuing to work on his game.
“It feels good,” he said of the distinction. “I always appreciate any type of honor, but I’m still going to work as hard as I always have.”
The clinics are just part of a full month for the UT staff. Besides S.H.O.T., there are fundamental skills camps, a father-son camp and an overnight camp being offered. The S.H.O.T. clinics finish up next week with stops in Jackson and Murfreesboro.