Kendrick Perkins stopped by the Thunder's youth basketball summer camp Wednesday afternoon to help instruct more than 100 boys and girls at Mid-American Christian University.
Approximately 60 of the campers were from Plaza Towers, Briarwood Elementary or Highland East Junior High, the three Moore schools damaged or destroyed in the May 20 tornado. The Thunder offered free registration to each of its summer camps to all students from those schools, and more than 200 Moore students signed up to attend Thunder summer camps.
For Perkins, Wednesday's appearance was a part of an offseason he's dedicated to giving back to the community. Perkins and his wife, Vanity, partnered with a local business to accept donations the day after the May 20 tornado, and he has a celebrity golf tournament to benefit Moore tornado victims scheduled for July 3.
After his work with the kids, Perkins explained why giving back has become a priority and why he's treating this offseason like he's a rookie.
Q: This is your third year coming to summer camp. What's this experience like for you?
A: Well, anytime I can come out and I feel like I can brighten up a kid's day or their moment … you know, I always grew up in a community where I didn't have a chance for a professional athlete or any type of professional to come in and speak to me. And I know a lot of the kids look up to it. So I just try to come and encourage them to keep going, keep working hard, keep building and just come and try to brighten up their day.
This was the camp for the Moore students. How much does it mean to you to be able to be a part of this one in particular after that tragedy?
Well it means a lot. I was actually down here when the tornado hit and so I've been doing a lot of work myself in the community. I'm actually going down to Beaumont (Texas) and doing a fundraiser for the city of Moore. So I think it's key. I think it's a great thing that the kids get to come and relax and just get away from all that. I use basketball as my sanctuary. They can do the same thing. But it's good. You've got a nice supportive group here, people that really care. That's the most important thing.
Is there anything else you can tell us about the fundraiser in Beaumont and why you felt that was a good thing for you to do?
Coming down from Beaumont, we had a lot of hurricanes with Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita. So we know what it feels like to be affected by things like that. So I just wanted to help in any way possible. And I know the city of Beaumont supports me a lot so I just wanted to get them to support the city of Oklahoma City and the state of Oklahoma.
You've got the golf outing coming up. What can you tell us about that?
Bring your golf clubs. It's just a fundraiser for all the schools that don't have shelters. I'm trying to get as many shelters in schools as I possibly can. It's just a fundraiser for that. Just come out there for a couple of hours and try to win. We'll have a couple silent auction items. All the money is just going toward building shelters for schools, schools that don't have them.
It's pretty rare for veterans to stick around like you have. Why did you feel it was so important to be around working out and be with the young guys?
Well, to be honest with you, I was excited about this summer, being able to work on my game. This my first summer without having surgery so I'm just excited about it. I definitely didn't like how I finished the season this past season, or the postseason. I was kind of embarrassed about the way I played. So the only way to go about it is to go back to the drawing board and I'm just treating this summer like I'm a rookie again. I'm working out with the young guys and I'm acting like I don't even have a contract. That's how I'm working.