How two Philadelphia-born professional basketball players are inspiring the next generation

Early Saturday morning at Cristo Rey High School’s Essent Gym, everyone could hear dribbling, direction, and that distinctive squeak of sneakers that any basketball fan can instantly recognize. Coaches told campers to lower their stances, keep their eyes up while dribbling, and urged them to compete earnestly and diligently in a gymnasium that would be full of hoops from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Those were the sounds of the fourth annual 2K Skills and Drills Academy, a basketball camp focused on developing skills for young girls and women.

To avoid confusion, the 2K in the name of the camp has nothing to do with the popular video game but refers to the first names of the creators of the camp: Kahleah Copper and Keisha Hampton, two natives of Philadelphia. professional basketball players, Copper with the WNBA’s Chicago Sky and Hampton on the EuroCup Women’s Championship-winning Tango Bourges Basket of France.

Hampton and Copper were Sky teammates during the 2017 season, and the two friends decided to start a camp to teach the next generation of young women.

“Me and Kahleah got together, we were just saying [we’re] see so much for young boys and young men in the city of Philadelphia, and we’ve never seen too many people doing anything for girls at the level where they’re doing anything for guys,” Hampton said.

So in 2018 they launched the 2K Skills and Drills Academy to do just that.

The couple’s dedication to the event was evident. Copper, currently in the middle of the Sky’s record season, played two games in three days and spent his day off on a plane from Chicago to Philadelphia.

She was late due to a plane delay but came straight to camp – suitcase in tow – to make sure she could impart as much knowledge as possible.

“It’s important to show up,” Copper said. “It’s one thing to meet these girls on Zoom or send them something, but to actually be there, and have these young girls see you in the flesh and be able to touch you and take pictures with you, I think it’s special.”

Hampton and Copper emphasized to campers that basketball had the potential to change their lives by paying for their education, even without becoming a professional player or going to a Division I school, as they did.

“They have something to aspire to other than make it to the WNBA, because the reality is a lot of them won’t get that far,” Hampton said.

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Copper had been a star since playing for Prep Charter. She became an All-American in high school before playing at Rutgers and being drafted with the sixth pick by the Washington Mystics in 2016. Her career got off to a low start, but in the past two years she has earned two WNBA All selections. -Star. and a Finals MVP award with the Sky.

Hampton, a star and Public League champion in George Washington Carver, went to DePaul, where she earned All-Big East and All-American honors. Hampton was on the Wooden Award watch list before a knee injury ended his college career. She has played mostly overseas since then and averaged 10 points per game in the Tango Bourges EuroCup Championship.

Camp organizers know what basketball means to the city of Philadelphia and wanted to make sure they helped carry on the tradition that had been paved by greats like Kobe Bryant and Dawn Staley.

“Basketball, to me, in this city, is everything,” Hampton said. “When people think of Philadelphia, they think of our toughness, so it’s important to continue to embrace that and embody that.”

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The parents, some of whom stayed to watch the proceedings, were happy that their children had the chance to learn from the professionals.

“Something to keep them out of trouble and something positive,” said Keeya Davis, whose daughter attended the camp. “It went very well, very educational. I liked the main talking points they gave.

Such reactions were exactly what Copper and Hampton imagined when this camp debuted.

At the end of the fourth annual 2K Skills and Drills Academy, coaches and organizers left thrilled with the event and happy with the impact they had on their community.

“It’s important for us to come back to our neighborhood where we come from with little girls who look like us and where we come from,” Copper said. “It’s pretty special, and we didn’t have anything like it growing up, but it’s important for us to create that cycle.”

The Philadelphia Inquirer is one of more than 20 news outlets producing Broke in Philly, a collaborative reporting project about solutions to poverty and the city’s push for economic justice. Find all our reports on brokeninphilly.org.

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