There was a lot of excitement at the Dee Events Center Tuesday night as youth basketball teams and fans alike flooded in for the opportunity to meet and play with a professional basketball player from the Utah Jazz.
The Utah Jazz dance squad came out onto the court to get the crowd warmed up with games and other activities before the mystery player arrived. One of the dancers was Weber State University student Alyssa Wakefield, who then received a roaring welcome when it was revealed she was a fellow Wildcat.
“I love being a Jazz Dancer, ” Wakefield said. “It’s a lot of work. I study a lot, but it’s fun and it’s worth it.”
After the crowd was seated, Jazz officials began giving out hints as to who the mystery player would be. After giving out clues like his height (6 feet 1 inch) and his college team (University of Michigan) the fans were shouting out one name with anticipation as Jazz point guard Trey Burke walked out onto the court.
Burke spent the night talking to the children about what it take to achieve greatness in life and what good sportsmanship is about.
“Basketball is a game that deserves a lot of respect. Every time I step on the court I treat it with respect,” Burke said. “When you’re competing against another team a guy may go down; you help him up.”
Afterwards Trey invited the kids down onto the court to compete in various games, one of which was a free-throw competition where kids had to make the shot in order to advance in the competition. After making three free throws in a row, Hunter Strain, a participant in the Jr. Jazz youth basketball league, was the last one standing and was able to play head-to-head against Burke. Strain matched Burke shot for shot until the fourth round where he just missed his last shot.
“It was amazing,” Strain said. “I was really nervous shooting with everyone watching.”
Strain also said that some day he wants to play basketball at Weber State.
The night concluded with a Q&A segment with Burke. A variety of questions were asked, from what his favorite color was to what kind of car he drove. The last question of the night was how he felt when he lost his first game.
“I was probably 4 or 5 years old and didn’t know how to read the score board,” Burke said. “My dad would always say I’d ask who lost the game and if he said us, I would start crying.”
After the event ended, Burke left with a message for everyone to work hard for what they want.
“Start for your dreams,” Burke said. “Never let anybody tell you that you cannot do anything, because hard work, dedication and faith will get you anywhere.”