About 50 people had the opportunity to practice their basketball skills at the New York Knicks ‘Saturday Night Lights’ Clinic at the Long Island City YMCA on Jan. 21, 2023.
The two-hour event was the second of a series of five free basketball clinics presented by Nike and hosted by the New York Knicks in partnership with the YMCA of Greater New York and the New York City Department of Youth & Community Development (DYCD).
Mark Zustovich, chief public information officer of DYCD, shared that the Saturday Night Lights program was offered at 137 locations throughout the city, serving approximately 4,000 teenagers.
“It is a great program,” Zustovich said. “Here’s a program on a Saturday night to help young people stay engaged and stay safe.”
The budding basketball stars had the chance to meet Knicks basketball Legend John Starks, who said it was always good to see the smiles on the faces of young people and bring them together in a positive setting like Saturday Night Lights.
“To be able to have kids off the Streets and be able to be in a positive setting is always good,” said Starks, an All-Star who played for the Knicks from 1990-1998. “You know, basketball was that for me when I was growing up, knowing that I can come to a basketball court and feel safe in the environment.”
Starks’ advice to those wanting to become the next Michael Jordan was to follow their dreams.
“Hard work is everything. And that’s the most important thing,” Starks said. “And don’t give up on yourself. Don’t let anyone doubt you. You can do anything you want to do in life. But you got to put in the work in order to achieve it.”
About six coaches showed the teenagers how to strengthen their ball handling and shooting skills after a warm-up that included push-ups and running drills.
Former pro-basketball player and Knicks camp director Bill Singleton explained that this was the second year the Knicks participated in Saturday Night Lights.
“Today we’re very lucky to have John Starks,” Singleton said. “The organization does a fantastic job of trying to get the players involved in the community, doing outreach to young people, especially in underserved areas. We always try to give back in that way.”
Sharon Levy, senior vice president for Public Affairs at the YMCA of Greater New York, shared that the Knicks were a great partner.
“We’ve had a previous relationship with the Knicks a few years back,” Levy said. “When the opportunity came along to bring the Knicks, ‘Saturday Night Lights,’ and the Y together in one place, we knew we had to do it.”
Levy said as a child of the 80s and 90s she was in the Garden with the Knicks during some of the team’s tough losses and great wins. She said it was “huge” to have John Starks at the Y.
“And I think the kids, it wasn’t lost on them either,” Levy said.
Julian Colon, 17, has been coming to the Saturday Night Lights event for about a year, but it was his first time attending a junior Knicks clinic.
“I appreciate there being experienced coaches here, teaching skills and drills and getting our game better,” Julian said. “And also giving us some nice shirts too. I appreciate it.”
Ramandeep Girr, 17, has been attending ‘Saturday Night Lights’ for over two years. They said that the program has helped improve his basketball skills.
“I couldn’t dribble the basketball properly with my left hand. I couldn’t make a left-hand layup,” Ramandeep said. He credits his YMCA coaches for his improvement on the court. “Thanks to my coaches Shaq, Dorjee, and David, I’ve been able to put in a lot of work, and they have given me the proper drills to do.”
The remaining two Clinics will be on Saturday, Mar.4, at the Broadway YMCA in Staten Island and on Saturday, Apr. 8, at the Flatbush YMCA in Brooklyn. In addition, 10 YMCA teens will have the opportunity to play on the Madison Square Garden court on Apr. 9 before the Knicks play the Indiana Pacers.