While Suns sort out free agency, Mikal Bridges delivers for young basketball campers

(Video by Connor Cox/Cronkite News)

PHOENIX – Even with the buzz of NBA free agency as a soundtrack, Phoenix Suns forward Mikal Bridges stayed focused on his first youth camp, which attracted hundreds of boys and girls of all ages seeking guidance from the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year runner-up.

Bridges enthusiastically coached his campers and joined in on drills. He even played his patented lock down defense against some of the campers, crossing them up and finishing with a big dunk.

“Hey man, they talk a lot of smack out here sometimes,” he said, smiling. “So, I got to show them up.”

Bridges remembers attending camps as a young athlete and was thrilled to be able to pass on some of his knowledge to Arizona youth.

“It’s amazing man,” he said. “Going to camps as a kid, it’s just dope. To be in my position right now and do the same thing for the kids, it’s amazing.”

Bridges remembers improving his game at youth camps through drill and skill work just like what is being taught at his camp. “(We teach) a lot, it’s just all the fundamentals. A lot of skills and drills, learning how to play five on five. I think the biggest thing I took from (camp) was free throws. I feel like I got pretty good at free throws as a kid from camp.”

The camp, which ends Friday, is surely a welcome distraction from a week full of NBA free agency buzz with trade rumors that even include Bridges. Bridges finished this last season as the runner-up for Defensive Player of the Year. The past season was a high point of Bridge’s young career where he averaged a career high 14.2 points on an extremely efficient 53.4% shooting.

Bridges hosted his camp at “The PHHacility,” a 31,000 square feet state-of-the-art basketball training center. PHHacility representative Derek Biale, a former college basketball player and now one of the main development trainers and a high school coach at the PHHacility believes “this is the best facility on the West Coast. For us to have this in Phoenix, we’re very fortunate.”

Bridges mused that he wasn’t afraid to show his young campers up. “Hey man, they talk a lot of smack out here sometimes,” he said, smiling. (Photo by Omar Iakub/Cronkite News)

The PHHacility and its staff said they were thrilled to be the host of Bridge’s youth camp and to be given this opportunity to give back to the Phoenix youth.

“It’s a blessing, that’s why I do it,” Biale said. “We love giving back to the kids. We’re just trying to make the biggest impact we can, biggest impact on the community, and ultimately to give everything that the game has given to me back to the kids as well.”

Many of the workers at the camp were current and former basketball players from the Phoenix area. One of these was Mycole Rodriguez, a Paradise Valley High School, Taylormade Prep and Central Arizona College basketball alum.

“Basketball has opened up so many doors and opportunities for me. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to give back,” Rodriguez said. “I went to camps like these, too, and I learned a lot from it and got a lot of memories.”

Rodriguez has played basketball for most of his life and picked up a wealth of knowledge along the way that he was grateful to teach to some of the campers.

Rodriguez remembers going to a camp where he got to play one-on-one against Shaquille O’Neal. He said moments like these helped him grow into the basketball player he is today.

Phoenix Suns forward Mikal Bridges said one of the biggest reasons he decided to lead a youth camp is because they meant so much to him when he was young. (Photo by Omar Iakub/Cronkite News)

Max Campodall’Orto m-a-cks camp-oh-dall-Or-toe (he/his)
Sports Reporter, Phoenix

Max Campodall’Orto expects to graduate in December 2022 with a bachelor’s degree in sports business and a bachelors degree in sports journalism. Max is assigned to Cronkite Sports Phoenix this semester.

Sports Broadcast Reporter, Phoenix

Connor Cox expects to graduate in August 2022 with a bachelor’s degree in sports journalism. Cox is interning with AZTV7 and helping out with the station’s morning show, “AZ Daily Mix.”

Sports Visual Journalist, Phoenix

Omar Iakub expects to graduate in August 2022 with a bachelor’s degree in sports journalism. Iakub has interned as a social media marketer at Green Desert in Phoenix.