EUGENE, Ore. — The YMCA Winter Basketball League tipped off over the weekend with 1,650 kids, ranging from first to fifth grade, from all over the area taking the court.
While most teams are coached by parents, the second grade Lakers hands down have the coolest coach – Oregon Duck football star De’Anthony Thomas.
“Our season is over and I just wanted to do something in the community,” Thomas said.
He landed the assistant coaching job thanks to head coach Brian McClay, whom he met through a mutual friend.
“I was telling him about how I was coaching my YMCA basketball team and he was like, ‘oh man I would really enjoy it coaching kids’, so I was like why don’t you come help me,” McClay said.
But even McClay was not sure De’Anthony would actually do it.
“I never would expect that out of most football players, especially at his level,” McClay said. “He has to go everywhere and people are asking him for autographs … he’s like the president of Oregon … I was surprised that he would take the time out to coach some children.”
“It’s great,” Thomas said. “I love the kids and I just like to have fun and I just want to take what I learn and just bring it out to them.”
Despite being an offensive and special teams standout for the Ducks, Thomas coaches defense and handles the conditioning for the second grade Lakers.
He commits three days a week to help coach the team – practice every Tuesday and Wednesday and games on the weekend.
After making his coaching debut, Thomas was pleased with the way his team performed.
“I feel like we did pretty good,” Thomas said. “A lot of kids out there having fun, but I just feel like we gotta condition a little bit more and get some more steals and get some more rebounds.”
He may want more out of the kids, but what he wants most is for them to have a good time.
“This could change the kid’s life,” McClay said. “It might make them want to be more, a better person.”
Or maybe it could make them want to give back to their community, just like De’Anthony Thomas is doing.