Marian Catholic High School sophomore R.J. Ogom of Flossmoor gave up part of his summer break to volunteer at a kids basketball skills camp Aug. 12.
He says the camp also gave him a new perspective on the game and being part of a team.
“It feels great to be here,” said R.J. “I enjoy helping these kids out. I didn’t play basketball when I was this young, so I want to help them.”
The camp was geared for kids ages 5 to 15. They practiced skills such as dribbling, shooting and playing defense. The campers even learned how to fall and avoid injury.
R.J. was one of several volunteers assisting youth this past weekend at the inaugural basketball camp hosted by National Basketball Association player Tyler Ulis, a 2014 graduate of Marian Catholic who went on to play for two years at the University of Kentucky before being drafted by the NBA’s Phoenix Suns.
One of the reasons Ulis established the Tyler Ulis Foundation is to give back to the surrounding community.
“I’m glad to be back,” said Ulis. “This is something I’ve always dreamed of as a kid, giving back to the younger guys.”
Watching the campers work on their skills reminded Ulis of his Marian Catholic basketball team.
“I have a great group of friends,” said Ulis. “They pushed me every day. We would be here in this gym working on rebounds and other skills like that.”
The Tyler Ulis skills camp made a difference for R.J. as well.
“I want to be more of a team guy (for Marian) than I was last year,” he said. “I feel like I was selfish. Today I’m making strides to improve … to be a team player.”
Marian Catholic head basketball coach Mike Taylor, who coached Ulis, appreciates hearing those words from his current players.
“For me as a coach, we don’t talk about winning and losing, we talk about competing,” Taylor said. “We talk about being good teammates and good people.”
“I have six kids back helping (at camp) that played for me and current players as well. We have great kids here. If they continue to work and listen, the relationships just blossom,” he added.
Ulis’s father, James, said he is happy to be back at Marian Catholic as well.
“Walking in today, watching these kids, they are smiling, shaking Tyler’s hand, hugging him. It reminds him how he is looked up to as a role model,” said James Ulis. “He (Tyler) inspired a kid today that thought he wasn’t good enough.”