“Why not?”

Former Killeen High basketball star Cory Jefferson lives by that motto, which also inspired the youth basketball camp he started four summers ago.

Jefferson once played for the maroon and white before graduating and playing for Baylor.

He was selected in the second round of the 2014 NBA Draft by the San Antonio Spurs before playing for the Brooklyn Nets and Phoenix Suns.

The power forward played for Darüşşafaka of the Turkish Basketball Super League and the EuroLeague.

Yet, every summer Jefferson returns to Killeen to host a free youth basketball camp.

“After my first year I got drafted, it

was just something I wanted to do to give back to the community and to the city for all the support they gave me over the years growing up in Killeen,” he said.

Not only does Jefferson foot the bill to provide the campers with lunch, but he pays for the camp T-shirts and basketballs each attendee receives.

“It’s grown a lot,” he said. “More kids come every year, and the older kids that come from the past camps have the old shirt on from when we started the first camp, so that’s cool to see.

“But just to see more kids come and enjoy it, it’s great.”

Although the camp started at 9 a.m., Jefferson wandered throughout the gym, shooting hoops with various campers while his mother, Fancy Pace, and his family helped register the line of walk-up attendees that was out the gym doors.

“It definitely brings back memories of playing here,” said Jefferson as he stood in the lobby of the Killeen High gym. “Especially being in this hallway and seeing the trophies and the banners in the gym.

“It’s really good to see and bring everybody back — old teammates and friends — to help me; it’s nice.”

This year, Jefferson had Royce O’Neale, Kay Felder and Beau Beech, among other friends, to help run the various drill stations throughout the day.

O’Neale played for Harker Heights. He also played for the University of Denver and Baylor but spent last season turning heads as an undrafted rookie playing for the Utah Jazz.

“I remember I was once in their shoes going to camp, so just coming back and being able to give back is big,” O’Neale said. “It means a lot when you get to do something good for the city.”

Felder is originally from Detroit and was taken in the second round of the 2016 NBA Draft by the Atlanta Hawks.

“I’ve been helping the past three summers,” Felder said. “It’s been fun ever since.”

Beech was signed by the Brooklyn Nets in July 2016 and currently plays for the Erie BayHawks in the NBA G League. He never even knew where Killeen was before he met Jefferson.

“Cory is a good friend. I’ve known him the last three years,” Beech said. “And he does a lot of great things for the town of Killeen, so when he asked if I wanted to help out, I said, ‘Of course.’

“We’re like family, so if I can help him help back in his own community, that’s an opportunity I can’t pass up.”

While the kids get a day of learning drills from athletes who play the game every day, it’s the professionals that get more out of it.

“The best part to watch is that they don’t even know, but the kids put a bigger smile on my face than I do theirs because I never thought I would be in this position,” Felder noted. “So, I thank Cory for putting on this camp and giving me the opportunity to help them out.”

Knowing that many of the kids who attend aspire to be in their shoes one day, Jefferson and his friends hope to show the campers that anything is possible.

“The biggest thing I always tell kids is, if you want, you definitely have the tools to do it,” Beech said. “You just have to be outgoing, courageous and approachable.

“Those are the things I think got me to where I am today.”

Felder’s advice for athletes is to focus on what they can control.

“You can control your work ethic, you can control your attitude and those are two very important things going into the business of basketball,” he said. “Because everybody is always watching you. So if you don’t work, you don’t eat.”

If I can do it, Jefferson challenges younger athletes from the area, “Why can’t it be you?

“If it’s something you want to do, put your mind to it, put in the work, dedication and practice — even if it’s not basketball. Whatever it may be. If it’s something you want to do, just keep pushing forward, don’t listen to any of the negativity.”

Next year will a landmark year for the Cory Jefferson Youth Basketball Camp.

“It’s going to be Year 5 so we’re going to try and do something a little bigger and keep it going from there.”

fcardenas@kdhnews.com | 254-501-7562

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