By Matt Stallknecht, POINT 3 Basketball
As many POINT 3 followers know, we are incredibly proud to be the official outfitters of all the Atlanta Hawks Youth Programs, including their Jr. Hawks leagues and the Atlanta Hawks Summer Camps presented by Philips. The Hawks have done some incredible things over the past few years both on and off the court for the city of Atlanta, and we like to think we’ve had a little something to do with it.
In order to take the game to new heights, the Hawks realize that getting kids involved is a crucial factor. But how do they go about doing that? We caught up with the Hawks Director of Basketball Programs, Jon Babul, to get some insight into that very question.
Jon Babul leads the Hawks' Youth Basketball Programs
Jon has a long and storied career in the Southeast basketball scene that began during his collegiate playing days at Georgia Tech. Jon was a four-year player for the Yellow Jackets from 1996-2001, where he scored 539 points and 431 rebounds over the course of 104 games as a collegiate star. Jon would end up taking those skills to James Madison University years later, where he parlayed his passion for assisting in the development of youth basketball players into a job as a collegiate coach. In fact, it was his passion for helping young ballers that helped him land his job with the Hawks.
“After my stint with James Madison, I was volunteer coaching a 7th grade basketball team, and one of the teams in our league ironically ended up being coached by the Assistant GM of the Hawks, Scott Wilkinson,” said Babul. “The relationship I built with Scott coaching at the youth basketball level opened the door for an opportunity to join the Hawks organization and revamp and revitalize the Jr Hawks program. I was in the right place, at the right time and met the right person.”
In essence, Jon’s passion for helping kids led him to his dream job. For those that don’t know, the Jr. Hawks are part of the league-wide Jr. NBA program. The Jr. Hawks program targets school-age boys and girls in the Atlanta area, offering camps, clinics, and partner leagues designed to help kids learn the game in a fun and positive environment. But basketball skills are not the only thing Jon’s group looks to develop.
“We have a philosophy in our events, and especially our summer camps, that is predicated on exposing our kids to good teaching, a fun atmosphere, and a fit lifestyle, regardless of age or skill level,” said Babul. “However, we want to do more than just help kids be better basketball players. The greater goal is to make meaningful connections with youth, provide resources and opportunity for communities, and use the game of basketball as a vehicle to unite and impact the Atlanta community in a positive and productive manner.”
Atlanta Hawks All-Star Al Horford at Hawks Summer Basketball Camp
The Jr. Hawks’ commitment to helping the youth of Atlanta is perhaps best expressed by the scholarships offered by the program to provide underprivileged youths the opportunity to attend the camps. Babul’s team also is looking to partner with other basketball leagues in the Atlanta area to help grow youth basketball participation all across the city. So far, those efforts have been successful: Jr. Hawks basketball participation rates across Atlanta has increased by almost 1000% since Babul began working with the Hawks in 2011.
“Honestly, the big catalyst for growth has come from the (Hawks) ownership group, CEO and Executive Leadership Team. They really do care deeply about the community and view youth basketball as a platform for impacting thousands of lives in this city,” explained Babul.
This commitment to bettering the state of youth basketball in Atlanta is what initially helped bring POINT 3 and the Hawks together in the first place.
“We are committed to delivering a first class basketball experience for our fans, and we pride ourselves on aligning with brands that can match that premium level. POINT 3, being a superior gear supplier in the game of basketball, certainly fits that mold, and their shared passion for helping the youth of Atlanta makes this partnership something that we really treasure as an organization.”
Hawks alumni and honorary coach Charlie Criss working with Atlanta's youth
All told, for kids looking to have fun, stay fit, and improve their basketball game this summer, there is no better place to be than the Jr. Hawks camps, and POINT 3 could not be more proud to be a part of the program.
“At Jr. Hawks Camps you will be in a fun and competitive environment, get trained by top quality Jr. NBA coaches, have a chance to meet some of our current Hawks players, coaches and NBA alumni, and you’ll get your hands on POINT 3 Hawks-branded gear that you can’t get anywhere else,” said Babul.