Players, coaches and children came together for the third annual Hoops for Troops on Saturday at College Park Center.

The UTA men's and women’s basketball teams hosted the children of military veterans in a one-day camp to teach them basketball drills. Athletes interacted with kids and guided them through defensive stances, jumping, shooting and dribbling in a fun environment.

In its first two years, the event was hosted at the Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base in Fort Worth. This year, the event was moved to the practice gyms at College Park Center to give families a chance to see the facility and experience UTA’s home atmosphere.

Jon Bowman, chairman of the TD Ameritrade Veterans Initiative, said because of UTA’s recognized relationship with veterans, choosing the school was a natural choice to start this partnership. It gives him gratification to see that the initiative is helping the community, he said.

“You see all these kids smiling, jumping, playing around,” he said. “Those [are] the types of things the kids will have memories of forever.”

Krista Gerlich, women’s basketball head coach, said UTA is known for its community outreach, and this is another opportunity to connect and give back, in this case with military families.

She said UTA basketball players are blessed and in a spot where they can represent a college athletic program, and this event is their way of saying thank you. Gerlich has been at all three events, and she has seen the event grow from about 20 kids to nearly 60 this year.

“They’re hooping and hollering and just having a great time,” she said. “It’s a really exciting time and it’s a great way for us to start our season.”

Chris Ogden, men’s basketball head coach, said giving back to the veteran community is touching for him and his coaching staff. He said wants his players to understand and appreciate what veterans do for the country.

“For us to be able to give back to their kids, it’s something special and I hope our guys really appreciate that.”


Julio Vega is a sports reporter for The Shorthorn.

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