HOUSTON – When it comes to giving back to the hometown he loves, being one of the best power forwards in the NBA, and unique style, Los Angeles Lakers’ Jarred Vanderbilt is no stranger.
The Houston native and former local basketball standout is back home to host his free pro-basketball camp for the fourth year on July 21 for boys and girls who are passionate about the game. Happening at The Zone located at 10371 Stella Link Rd., the camp will take place from 9 a.m.-12 p.m.
Throughout the camp, Vanderbilt said he and some of the city’s top high school and college coaches will offer tips and hands-on instruction, including lectures, fundamental basketball skills stations, contests, and non-contact games in a high-energy, fun, and positive environment.
According to the Jarred Vanderbilt Foundation website, the experience is “great for athletes of all skill levels, whether they are new to the game or have been playing for years.”
“What’s special to me is me having the opportunity to give back,” Vanderbilt told KPRC 2′s Ari Alexander during an interview Thursday. “This is huge for me.”
The Victory Prep alum takes pride in how much the camp has grown.
“Each year, it’s gotten bigger and better. We’ve got more people, we’ve elevated gyms, we’ve got more guests coming in, you know, more sponsors helping provide for the kids and for the camp,” he explained. “I’m just amazed at how fast it’s elevated and grown over the years… It’s just always been super important for me just to give back.”
Vanderbilt’s basketball camp is not all he’s bringing to the Houston community. He’s also having his third backpack giveaway on August 19 for students preparing for the 2023-2024 school year. In addition to school supplies, the giveaway includes free haircuts and groceries for families. Growing up in the inner city, Vanderbilt said he knows what it’s like to be in need of supplies before classes are back in session.
“I feel like it’s super important for me, for every student that’s going to school and going to class to not have to worry about having supplies and stuff that other people take for granted,” he said.
NBA fashion icon
Known for being a fashion icon in the league, Vanderbilt fit right in during Fashion Week.
“Obviously I have a love for fashion and I just do it just because my love for it but just to get some recognition is always fun, it’s always dope,” he said.
Besides himself, Vanderbilt credits Oklahoma City Thunder’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Utah Jazz’s Jordan Clarkson for being some of the best-dressed athletes in the NBA.
While Vanderbilt is grateful to have played for multiple teams in the league, the Lakers franchise and fans welcomed him with open arms, embracing his talent on the court as a young athlete. After playing a few games, his Instagram followers nearly doubled.
“The recognition, the fanbase is crazy,” he said. “Like even going to Japan and Tokyo, just the recognition just from being with the Lakers because the Lakers are just so global. They’re international. Everybody is pretty much a Lakers fan, especially over there internationally, so just the recognition was a lot different for me, coming from a ‘smaller market’ going to one of the largest markets in sports, so I definitely don’t take it for granted. It’s a blessing to play on the highest stage at the highest level and it’s been a great experience so far.”
Playing alongside LeBron James
When it comes to playing alongside LeBron James, Vanderbilt said what makes the basketball legend different is that he is always two steps ahead.
“He has a super high IQ. He knows the game, he thinks the game, he studies the game and I think that just comes from his preparation,” he explained. “What he does leading up to the game, how he works and how he prepares for the game, I think that would separate him from the rest of the pack.”
Vanderbilt said the biggest lessons he’s learned from James are hard work and how to carry himself while in the league.
“I think he’s done a great job being a public figure since he was 18 years old, handling not only the fame but everything else that comes with being a public figure,” he said. “I think he’s done a great job of that and he’s almost the perfect model to model after if you want to be a respective athlete and a public figure.”
Aside from being a well-respected player, Vanderbilt said James is a kid at heart.
“Being around him, he’s always happy, having fun and joking around so I think that’s maybe a side that people don’t know as much.”
A look ahead
When Alexander asked Vanderbilt what he felt would set the Lakers up for another successful playoff run this year, Vanderbilt said the team’s training camp has been instrumental.
“We’re kind of piecing it together. We came in mid-season, so it’s kind of late to get full chemistry but we strung it together towards the end, but I think having the full training camp, a full season ahead of us, us being able to have more practices and get more chemistry and just gel together, I think that will help us in the long run,” Vanderbilt said. “Even then, we still had a great finish to the season last year.”
For more information on Vanderbilt’s upcoming community events and his foundation, go to jarredvanderbiltfoundation.org.