The Knicks Fan Development Team collaborated with Assemblywoman Nily Rozic to host a youth basketball clinic in the school’s gym. Dozens of students worked on drills, passing, dribbling and shooting.
Former first-round pick John Wallace, who played with the Knicks for two seasons, was among the instructors providing motivation and support.
“I know the importance of coming and giving back to the kids,” he said. “I see the smiles on kids’ faces. I see the difference it makes in their communities.”
Since retiring from professional basketball, Wallace has worked in the Knicks organization on public relations and fan development for eight years. He was all smiles on Thursday, working out with the students and encouraging them to have fun.
“I am a big kid at heart,” Wallace said. “I love having fun.”
Principal Robert Marino said many students don’t receive much exposure to basketball or other sports, so this is the school’s way of bringing it to them. He said the exposure to athletics is important at a young age.
“We believe in educating the whole child,” he said. “While we have a world-class academic program here at PS 120, we want to not only educate their mind, but also their body.”
Marino said the clinic comes at a time when the school is trying to expand its physical education program. The school basketball team, now in its third year, is hosting its first home game on November 21.
“Throughout a child’s educational career, they will find interests in many different things,” Marino said. “We want to be able to present to them as many opportunities and possibilities while they’re with us here at PS 120.”
Rozic helped connect the New York Knicks with PS 120. Two years ago, she also helped bring the New York Cosmos soccer team to the school for a clinic.
She explained that for a long time, PS 120 didn’t “really have physical education” or a big sports program. When Marino came to lead the school, Rozic said they sat down and decided to make it a priority.
“It’s important that kids have experiences both inside and outside of the classroom, and that they build skills and confidence in themselves,” Rozic said. “Basketball does that for a lot of kids. It just teaches you in a different way.”
The assemblywoman is no stranger to the sport. A self-professed Knicks fan, Rozic played on her middle school team, jumpstarting her love for the game.
“Being a part of my basketball team in middle school was a big help in boosting my confidence,” she said. “It certainly made me a fan for life.”
In addition to the sports clinics and programs, PS 120 recently celebrated the completion of a new schoolyard playground, equipped with a track, play equipment and basketball courts. Rozic said students can use it not just for recess, but after school as well.
“It completely revolutionizes the day of a student,” she said.