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Connecticut Sun guard Courtney Williams, center, waves as she is introduced to children from the Salvation Army Boys & Girls Club of Greater New London during a basketball skills clinic hosted by Conn’s Holleran Center and Athletics Department.
Four groups and organizations combined efforts recently to create a memorable experience at Connecticut College for area children.
Conn’s Holleran Center for Community Action and Public Policy and Athletics Department partnered with the WNBA’s Connecticut Sun to host a basketball clinic on Jan. 19 in Conn’s Luce Field House for 25 children enrolled in an after-school program at the Salvation Army Boys & Girls Club of Greater New London.
Sun guard Courtney Williams, former Sun forward and current Sun Assistant General Manager Morgan Tuck, and Conn’s own Jenna Whelan ’22, who played many games in the gym and is now the Sun’s communications intern, coached the children, who ranged in age from 6 to 12.
“The clinic was a collaboration with people from the community and a lot of different departments on campus. It’s cool to see all these different synergies happening,” said Associate Director of Community Engagement Patrick Lynch, who oversees Conn’s Pre-K-12 community partnerships.
Brandon Gonzalez-Cottrell has run the local Salvation Army Boys & Girls Club with his wife, Adriana, since August 2020. They brought the children to Conn in two waves on a Salvation Army bus from their center on Governor Winthrop Boulevard in downtown New London. The couple’s 14-month-old daughter, Phoebe, played with a basketball as the clinic went on.
“Our facility has no gym, so we’re very grateful to Conn College for opening up theirs for the kids to use,” Gonzalez-Cottrell said. The children also attended clinics at Conn run by the College’s men’s basketball team during the fall semester.
When asked what she was most looking forward to teaching the children about basketball, Williams smiled and said, “I don’t know. The kids are just having a good time. I’m just here for the vibes.” At one point early in the clinic, Williams stopped to carefully tie a young girl’s red Nikes.
The one-hour event began with a distribution of T-shirts bearing the Sun’s logo, and then children eased into an open court with energetic music playing in the background. They moved on to stretching and dribbling exercises and then practiced different bounce passes with a partner. Toward the end, they divided into two groups to practice shooting on either end of the court. They capped off the event with a group photo in front of a Salvation Army backdrop.
Afterward, Lynch commented, “The group had a ton of fun, and you could tell they really enjoyed the experience.”
Gonzalez-Cottrell said the event was “super special,” adding, “The kids were buzzing for days after.”