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Kyle Kuzma provides hope to hometown of Flint, Michigan, with inaugural free camp

Los Angeles Laker Kyle Kuzma, center, and Flint Powers Catholic head coach Greg Burks shout out with about 150 youth basketball players and volunteer coaches as they celebrate improving basketball skills at the end of the of the first day of the Kyle Kuzm
Los Angeles Laker Kyle Kuzma, center, and Flint Powers Catholic head coach Greg Burks shout out with about 150 youth basketball players and volunteer coaches as they celebrate improving basketball skills at the end of the of the first day of the Kyle Kuzma Basketball Camp on Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2018 at Flint Powers Catholic High School in Flint, Mich. ( Jake May/The Flint Journal via AP)
AP

FLINT, Mich. — Around 2 p.m. on Wednesday afternoon, Los Angeles Lakers star Kyle Kuzma could finally fold his arms to relax.

After a long day of interacting with kids during his inaugural basketball camp at Flint Powers Catholic High School, in his hometown of Flint, Michigan, the local hero had every right to catch a breath.

“It was a great first day of camp,” Kuzma said, smiling. “Had a lot of good campers here, they learned a lot, had a lot of fun.

“I think tomorrow and the next day is going to be a lot better because we’re getting into competitive stuff so I’m looking forward to it.”

From 9 a.m. until 1:30 p.m., the former University of Utah player hosted nearly 300 kids. He arrived as early as 8 a.m. to help set up, though, then gifted campers with lunch, T-shirts and backpacks full of Lakers swag and school supplies for free.

He drew inspiration from former NBA players Mateen Cleaves and Morris Peterson, both from Flint, who also hosted free camps during his younger years. Flint has been the subject of much criticism, regarding the ongoing water crisis, but this is one way to help shed that.

“For me, it’s all about trying to provide that hope to show that they can do it too because I’m here,” said Kuzma, who spent three seasons at Utah.

NBA players Monte Morris (Denver Nuggets), Miles Bridges (Charlotte Hornets) and JaVale McGee also hail from Kuzma’s hometown. Kuzma grew up competing against Morris and Bridges at the downtown YMCA and links all of their individual success to the long hours of competing in the gym together.

After making the NBA All-Rookie first team last season, the Lakers will be in the spotlight with the addition of free agent superstar LeBron James. Kuzma caught many by surprise last season with averages of 16.1 points and 6.3 boards, but he’s looking to add strength and become a better shooter to improve his overall skillset heading into year two alongside James.

As exciting as it will be to team with James for his second season, for now, Kuzma is focused on uplifting his community for the next couple days.

Friday will mark the conclusion of his first-ever camp.

He doesn’t take his current position for granted, either.

“It doesn’t take much to give back,” Kuzma said. “I feel like I wanted to be the person to never forget where I came from, so right away I thought, ‘why not? It’s the summertime, I’ve got nothing else better to do so why not give back to the kids?”