SAN ANTONIO — The Spurs' rookies made a trip to Morgan's Wonderland, their first of what's sure to be many acts of service in the San Antonio community.
The theme park caters to those with special needs, and is the largest such park in the world. Jeremy Sochan, Malaki Branham, and Blake Wesley helped out at a basketball clinic for the Spurs Inclusive Sports League on Wednesday, coaching the kids through a 3-on-3 tournament, signing autographs, and imparting life lessons.
"I was happy just to see the kids' faces," Branham said. "I definitely want to do some community service back in my hometown, so it was definitely good being here."
The Coyote was completely in his element with the campers. Spurs CEO RC Buford was also in attendance, high-fiving the kids and smiling ear to ear.
"It sends a big message that we are really big into community service, and that's why this franchise is what it is," Branham said.
Buford may have also done some scouting for when those 2028 draft picks come around, as several of the campers showed off skills that you wouldn't expect to see out of kids between the ages of 12 and 14.
Coaches from Our Lady of the Lake ran drills focused on the fundamentals: dribbling with your head up and your fingertips controlling the ball, boxing out for boards and so on. It's stuff that every kid learning the game should be taught, and stuff that many of these children would miss out on without programs like this.
"The Spurs Inclusive League is amazing, because it's letting people with intellectual disabilities and physical disabilities actually participate in basketball," said Elicia Meairs, a student at Stevens. "It feels amazing to not only have Our Lady of the Lake coaches actually come out and help coach us, but to also have the Spurs come out, for me it adds more motivation."
"I think it's important to involve everyone, and just allow everyone to have the same experiences as yourself," Sochan told reporters after the event. "I think it's always important for me to give back, and just show love to this community, be embedded in this community. It's a community I'm desiring to be in for so long."
He spoke to the kids about his own experiences, and the importance of trying new things.
"I think the more flexible you are, the more you're yourself, the more you're gonna grow as a person, as an athlete, in general," he said. "I was in your shoes as well, I was always looking up to players and other people, just trying to grow and take things from them."
In a Q & A, one of the campers asked the guys what their favorite go-to moves are on the court. For Wesley, it's the crossover between the legs. Sochan favors the spin move, and Branham likes the in-and-out dribble.
Wesley spoke about how important it was for him to be around NBA players when he was the campers' age. The rookies are all 19, so it really wasn't that long ago.
The teen draft picks are growing up a bit themselves, beyond competing against grown men in the practice facility.
Branham said he's making progress toward getting that drivers' license, and said the biggest change in his life since draft night is that now he's able to provide for his family.
As Branham answered questions, a new reporter with an English accent about a foot on every member of the assembled press asked how he's feeling heading into his rookie season.
"I'm super excited man," Branham said as he cracked his distinctive smile. "I've got some great teammates that I can't wait to play with, one is definitely Jeremy, so I'm happy."