PRYOR, OK —
The WNBA's Tulsa Shock and Pryor Public Schools will be teaming up in several ways this summer and into the fall to help the Pryor basketball program.
"It's a win-win for us," Laura Holloway, Pryor Schools health and wellness director, said. "We have great facilities to work out of, we are in a great location [with proximity to Tulsa, Kansas, Missouri and Arkansas]. They can give us great knowledge and training for our kids.
"They have resources that can help us, and we have resources that can help them."
"We are looking forward to the partnership and growing it to a sustainable future with them so we can help their kids become better basketball players, and, more importantly, better people through the game of basketball," Shock Basketball Academy Director of Player Development Bryan Drummond said.
Shock coaches and players came to Pryor in the fall of 2012 to host a fitness assembly for all three elementary schools at the Burdick Center.
In the spring, 50 Pryor junior high and high school students took part in a data collection program emphasizing the use of pedometers and nutrition surveys in the spring, and as a "thank you" for their help, Pryor coaches Kirk Emerine and Kim Barth joined Holloway in treating the students to a luncheon and tickets to the Shock's preseason game against the Atlanta Dream May 9, at the team's invitation.
Members the Shock front office and Pryor administrators stayed in touch, and the conversation rapidly moved toward a partnership between the two organizations.
The Shock run an academy for children all the way down to the pre-K level. "If we can expose our kids to basketball at an early age, we can do a great job teaching them later on in their careers," Holloway said. "They have a progression in their teaching, and it's tailored to certain age levels."
"We start our kids in kindergarten," Drummond said. "We have a progression — that's the word we always use, progression — to try to get girls from kindergarten to the WNBA. We want to get the fundamentals in place early so we can work on more advanced things as they get older. We're not going back and wasting time reteaching things."
Pryor and the surrounding community also represents a potential market for professional women's basketball, and it's one that some are already embracing. The Shock have been in Tulsa since relocating from Detroit in 2010, and appear primed for their best season in Tulsa to date.
The Shock have been interested in local players, inviting former Adair and Oral Roberts star guard Kevi Luper to training camp and 5-foot-4 guard Angel Goodrich of Tahlequah-Sequoyah making the final roster cut.
"We want the Shock to be successful, too," Holloway said. "That's within driving distance for us, our families to go and watch a game and really have a good time."
Tyler Coppedge, a Pryor High School student, was one of the 50 who attended the game May 9 — his first ever professional basketball game and his first time at the BOK Center, where the Shock play their home games.
"It was fun to spend time that day with my friends in my health and fitness lifestyle class and see my former junior high P.E. teacher, Kirk Emerine," Coppedge said. "I really appreciated the chance to attend and I hope to be able to go to a game this summer."
Pryor's Shelby Morrison, who attended the Shock game May 9, won a shooting contest and a three-day camp scholarship to the Shock Academy July 10-12, where Shock players will give hands-on advice and coaching. Six other Tigers will also attend the camp free of charge.
In addition to workshops and camps, the Shock and Pryor will also co-host a fundraising basketball tournament in Pryor in July.
"We are working toward, ultimately, getting the academy into elementary P.E. classes in the fall and spring [of 2013-14]," Holloway said.
Holloway acknowledged the importance Pryor's federal Physical Education Program (PEP) Grant has had in making this partnership a reality.
"There are opportunities in all directions," Holloway said. "It has opened doors for us everywhere, and a lot of those doors I never would have even imagined.