Published June 13, 2013
MOORE, Okla. – Students whose elementary schools were destroyed when a May 20 tornado ripped through Moore had a chance to hone their basketball skills Thursday with several former NBA greats.
About 50 students from Briarwood and Plaza Towers elementary schools participated in the camp at Moore High School with former NBA All-Stars Otis Birdsong, Micheal Ray Richardson and University of Tulsa coach Danny Manning, among others.
Richardson, a four-time All-Star with the New York Knicks and New Jersey Nets in the 1980s, said he felt compelled to participate after seeing the devastation in Moore.
"It was devastating just to watch it," said Richardson, who lives in Lawton. "And to know there were kids who didn't make it ... I just thought if there's anything I can do to help, I'm going to do it."
The May 20 tornado killed 24 people, including 10 children, and injured more than 300. Seven of the children who died were crushed when the tornado slammed into the Plaza Towers Elementary School.
Rick Gallant, whose home was damaged in the tornado, said he brought his two sons to the camp to give them something fun to do and take their mind off the devastation of the tornado.
"We had a vacation planned this week, and we didn't go," Gallant said. "We've got too much work to do with the house."
After the camp, the students were invited to a nearby fun park to play laser tag and video games at another event sponsored by the Police Athletic League, which co-hosted the basketball camp with the National Basketball Retired Players Association.
"This whole thing is being done so that their last memory isn't a tornado destroying their school and killing their classmates," said Oklahoma City Police Capt. Dexter Nelson.
Jimmy Akin, a sixth-grader at Plaza Towers, said he was huddled into a bathroom as the storm approached and ended up pinned beneath a wall that collapsed on his leg.
"The tornado blew the roof completely off," Jimmy said.
Although he participated in running, dribbling and shooting drills with members of the University of Tulsa men's basketball team, Jimmy admitted basketball wasn't his favorite hobby.
"My mom signed me up," he said. "I would really rather be in my hotel room reading a book."
Sean Murphy can be reached at www.twitter.com/apseanmurphy