BRIGHT FUTURES

I’ve been back home in Phoenix for most of the summer, and I’ve made it a priority to do some things to give back to the community that raised me and helped me achieve the things I have in life and my career.

I have a lot of pride in where I’m from, and for a while, I had really wanted to do something for the youth of Phoenix. My mom has a really good relationship with the Phoenix Boys and Girls Club, and we had been talking about teaming up for a while. Last month, it all came together. I held a one-day youth basketball clinic. All of the Boys and Girls Clubs in the Phoenix Metropolitan area were able to bring some of their kids to the Jerry Colangelo Boys and Girls Club for the day. We had kids from all over the Valley.

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It was the first time I’ve done something like that, so I didn’t know what to expect going in. But it worked out really well. We had almost 100 kids from ages 8-16, and everybody who was a part of it had a really great time.

Any time I do something like that, I like to be hands on. So I was out there being active, and by the end, I was drenched in sweat. But it was fun. Every coach there was very hands on with the kids, and I know the kids really enjoyed it. For our first time, I thought the clinic turned out really well. We had them all in there from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., doing basketball drills and getting some coaching from myself and some of the other counselors. Then we ended it with some 5-on-5.

The Boys and Girls Clubs do a wonderful job of giving back to the community especially when it comes to kids, and getting them prepared for life. The Jerry Colangelo Boys and Girls Club is a tremendous facility. Not only are there gym areas where kids can play sports — they also have a computer center, study rooms and even gardens where kids can go outside, and learn about the environment. Kids learn and grow there every single day. Being a partner with such a strong organization really helped the camp. Hopefully, we’ll be able to continue and extend that partnership in the future.

When a kid comes to a camp with my name on it, my main goal is for them to have fun. You want to teach them little things and help them, but summer camps aren’t supposed to be boring. First and foremost, I want them to leave with a smile on their face, and hopefully they learn something along the way too. It’s a bit of a balancing act.

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So in the midst of the activities, I try to find little pieces of time to fit in the talking parts and lessons, and make them short and sweet, cutting to the chase and stressing what’s really important. I give them that little bit of guidance, and if they ask for more, I will gladly give them more. When you’re young like that, you really want to be active and you want to have fun. You’re not there to hear me talk the whole time.

The best part for me was being around the kids. They’re so excited and happy, and they’re still so young. It’s a different mentality that kids have, and just being able to help them and give them a day of fun was something I really enjoyed doing. It’s an amazing feeling to give back to the city I’m from, and be able to put smiles on kids’ faces, even for a short time. Giving back like that is what it’s all about.

I’ve been where those kids are now. I was in their shoes when I was younger. Being able to give back to kids from my community, and pay it forward for all the help I got to be where I am, that made the event extra special to me. I want to help them in any way I can to achieve their goals, whether that’s playing basketball or any other sport, or if they want to be a doctor, a lawyer or a politician. Whatever they want to be, it’s important that they have people to help them, and guide them in the right direction toward those things. That’s what I want to do. My main message to them by the end of the clinic was just to follow their dreams. Whatever it is, just follow your dreams, and don’t let anything stop you.

TEAM BAYLESS

One of the other ways I give back to young kids and the game of basketball is through my continued work in AAU, and my Team Bayless program.

We have a lot of great young players from Arizona and California out there this year, and they’re working hard toward achieving their goal of earning a college scholarship. It’s really cool for the Arizona kids especially because Arizona still isn’t really a basketball state. It’s still pretty similar to when I came up as a kid — it’s a football state, and the basketball opportunities are kind of few and far between. But there is still a group of kids that really love it, and I’m glad to be able to help some of them. I have a close tie to them being from Arizona.

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That said, I want to see all the kids do well, not just Arizona kids. I want to see all of them fulfill their dreams, and it’s important to me to help them reach that goal. Sometimes all you need is an opportunity, and that’s why I started the program. I want to see as many young people be able to go to college as possible. Being able to go to college for free is something that is really special, so that’s the main reason I started the Team Bayless program. It’s worked out tremendously in a short period of time.

We’ve already got one of our players, Kobe Paras, committed to a scholarship offer from UCLA. A lot of the other kids have offers on the table, which is incredible. Hopefully, the offers continue coming in for all of them.

GETTING READY

In some ways, it feels like the season just ended, but it’s already August. Training camp is right around the corner.

I’ve been biding my time in Phoenix, doing my usual offseason program, just working out and trying to get better as I get ready for the season. I’ve been trying to improve in every facet, and if I can do that, I think I’ll be in good shape.

I’m very happy to have some stability heading back to Milwaukee after the last few seasons. Jason Kidd and the whole Bucks organization have been class through and through since I arrived there. Being a part of something that is developing the way the Bucks franchise is, that’s really special. I’m happy that I’ll be there.

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I’m looking forward to building on what we accomplished last season. Getting to the playoffs last year — especially for some of the younger players — was really important for us. That kind of experience can help a team get over the hump down the road. When you look at the paths of some of these championship winning and contending teams like Golden State and Oklahoma City, they were young teams that got to the playoffs, and then continued to grow from there. So we’re off to a pretty good start. Hopefully, we can continue along a similar path.

It hurts that we lost Zaza and Jared, but adding Greg Monroe helps a lot. He’s a big-time post presence, and a very good player who can score on the block. That’s something that we were kind of missing. To be able to bring him in also speaks to the change in perception around the league about Milwaukee. Any time you can get a player of that caliber, it’s going to help the team, and hopefully, we can make that translate into more wins. It has me even more excited to get to work this coming season.

I’m thrilled to be a part of what’s happening in Milwaukee. It’s going to be great. I hope the fans are just as excited. I appreciate all the support you’ve given me and the Bucks, and I encourage you to continue pushing us. We have a really special team, and we’re going to do everything we can to make you proud.

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