June 18, 2018
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Red Claws conduct Brewer hoop clinic

Bangor Daily News | BDN
Bangor Daily News | BDN
Elizabeth White, 11, of Veazie, (left) and Sam Brown, 14, of Lee were among the approximately 25 kids who participated in the Maine Red Claws basketball clinic held at the Dunkin Doughnuts parking lot in Brewer Wednesday. (Bangor Daily News/Gabor Degre)

    BREWER — When Maine Red Claws head coach Austin Ainge asked a throng of youngsters “what wins games?” Reece Baker wasn’t one of many of them who yelled “defense.”

That’s because the Brewer Middle School student, who will enter seventh grade in the fall, is more of an offensive-minded basketball player.

He and more than 20 other area kids enjoyed some fun in the sun Wednesday morning as Ainge and other Red Claws representatives conducted a clinic at the Dunkin’ Donuts on Shilling Street in Brewer.

The clinic was part of a summer clinic series put on by the NBA Development League affiliate of the Boston Celtics and Charlotte Bobcats that includes 13 stops around the state, including another in Houlton today.

Baker, who played basketball for Brewer Middle School last winter, enjoyed the session.

“It was great, I loved that they came out here. I had a good time,” he said.

Ainge, the son of Celtics President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge, had a blast as well.

“It’s a great way for us, along with Dunkin’ Donuts, to give back to the community, to say thank you to all our fans for supporting us all year,” Ainge said.

The clinic featured Ainge teaching the youngsters various fundamentals, such as dribbling, defensive stances and sliding, and shooting.

Two portable backboards were set up in the Dunkin’ Donuts parking lot.

It also included some fun games, which included dribbling relay races in which the two losing lines of kids had to do 10 jumping jacks, which could’ve easily been pushups had overnight and morning rains not made the parking lot a tad wet.

“The kids were great, I hope they had as much fun as I did,” Ainge said.

Baker, who said his favorite skill is a crossover dribble, said his parents told him about the clinic and decided to give it a try.

“My dad heard [about] it on the radio and my mom looked it up online, it sounded like a lot of fun,” he said.

Baker also plays soccer and baseball, and said if the clinic returns to Brewer next summer, he’ll participate again.

The most important aspect of the clinics, Ainge feels, is getting kids happy about being active, even if they’re not competitive on the basketball court.

“I personally love to play basketball to stay in shape. It’s a lot more fun than a treadmill,” he said. “It’s good to learn physical fitness at a young age and develop healthy habits.”

The Red Claws’ mascot, Crusher, also participated in the day’s activities, and Ainge tried to keep things basic, fundamentals-wise.

“You can’t become a good player overnight so we just try to show them some things they can do to work on every day,” he said.

Ainge also thinks the clinics could become a rite of passage for the Red Claws every summer.

“It’s amazing how many fans the of the sport of basketball there are in this state,” he said.

He’s never been to Aroostook County, but is looking forward to today’s trip to Houlton, an area where basketball is king.

“This state is just amazing, their passion for the sport of basketball is fun to see,” Ainge said.

The Red Claws had a breakthrough first season, winning 27 games and selling out all 24 home games at the Portland Expo, and Ainge things the second season could be even better.

“I think we’ll have a chance to be even better the second time around,” he said.

His dad has been a busy man over the summer with the signings of Shaquille O’Neal and Jermaine O’Neal.

“I think [the Celtics are] poised to give it another [championship] run,” Ainge said.

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