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Big Al’s 9th camp successful

Prentiss native Al Jefferson had over 300 kids take part in day one of his ninth annual youth basketball camp held at Prentiss High School.

This yearís camp was split into four sessions with 1st through 7th graders going Monday, high school girls going Tuesday and high school boys going Wednesday. Kids from all over the area and as far as Jackson attended the camp.

Since Big Al started the camp in 2009, roughly 3200 kids have come through his camps free of charge. Over 180 boys and girls participated in the Monday sessions alone.

This camp is strategically placed in the year so each participant will receive school supplies right before the start of school. Along with the supplies, participants also received a basketball, t-shirt, lunch and snacks throughout the session.

The camp is run by the National Basketball Academy out of Ohio.

“This is the  only camp of its kind in the state of Mississippi.” said camp director Mitchell Williams.

“Who in the world would give a free basketball camp and you get free school supplies and lunch too. Not to mention instruction from an NBA star. It’s crazy.”

Jefferson’s main goal for staring the camp was to give back to the kids and make sure they knew their dreams could come true.

“When I first started, I wanted to look back ten years from now and say we came a long way and we are still getting bigger and bigger, and there is more to come,” said Jefferson.

Big Al announced at last year’s camp, that he intended to build his own gym in Prentiss, so he could help the kids all year round. This year, he provided an update.

I am in the process of working on my own facilities. Right now I’m only giving these kids one week out of the year.

“My goal is to be able to give to these kids around the clock, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“After school programs, help with homework, snacks, etc.

“I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but it is in the works. The county and state are supportive and I am keeping God first and my fingers crossed to move forward.

“It means a lot to me seeing these kids each year.

“Coming from this same town, we didn’t have smart phones, ipads or computers.

“We loved to get outside and play basketball. And that’s what I’m trying to bring back.

“I know it’s a new generation, but there are kids out there that still have goals to get to the NBA or NFL and I just want them to know they can reach those goals.

“That was the main focus when I started this camp. To let these kids know they can reach their goal no matter where they are from.

“I am a big believer in having fun. Basketball is all about fun.

“For the young kids at this camp it is about having fun and getting out of the house.

“For the older kids, they learn more about fundamentals. A lot of people don’t realize how important the little things in the game are.”

“When you start at a young age and you realize like I did this is something I can do and be good at. I’m just trying to give kids that help.

When asked how he felt coming home to his high school gym, and being a part of the only championship, he replied, “Every time I walk in this gym and see that picture it brings back memories.

“To be honest with you . as I was living through that moment it felt like I was living a dream.

“We all know when you get deep in the play-offs and tournaments, that every game counts, every mistake, every missed free throw. It just seemed like I

was taking one step at a time through the process. It was like I woke up one night and we were the state champions.

“It is a great feeling and every time I walk back in this gym I have those same feelings. Like I’m back in 2003.”