BY BRANDON GUBITOSA
John Starks was back in Rockland County this week as Cablevision’s Optimum and Madison Square Garden teamed up for the eighth annual Knicks Summer reading event at the Bronx House Day Camp in Pearl River. Former Knicks all-star Starks and New York State Assemblyman Mark Gjonaj were in attendance as they read excerpts from Barbara E Barber’s book Allie’s Basketball Dream.
The camp was comprised of 75 third and fourth graders from the Bronx. It was part of the Knicks read to achieve program which consists of a series of events at local libraries and camps in the New York/ New Jersey metro area.
After being welcomed to the campers, Starks and Gjonaj spoke to the campers on the importance of reading. “Biggest thing about reading, is comprehending what you read,” Starks told campers.
Assemblyman Mark Gjonaj encouraged the youths. “You guys are our future,” he said.
Before the reading, campers were given a Knicks read to achieve shirt, a copy of the book and a raffle ticket to win cool prizes afterward. Starks and Gjonaj started off reading, and then called upon campers to come up and do the same. After the reading was done campers were quizzed on what they read to help with their reading comprehension skills. “Understanding what you read and being able to relay it back on to paper is important,” said Starks.
“The whole gist of this is to encourage them to read throughout the summer,” he told the Rockland County Times.
Jayson, a fourth grader, from the Bronx really enjoyed the event. “I get to come here and see a basketball player from the Knicks, it was really exciting because I love basketball,” he said. He was also one of the lucky campers to win a prize that day. “It feels awesome to win a prize, it makes the day even better.”
Jada, a third grader from the Bronx, also liked the event. “I liked the event, it was good seeing John Starks and I will enjoy reading more after this,” she said.
Not every kid was lucky enough to win a prize, that’s why the kids were given soccer balls to use at the camp and whistles for them to use. “Everyone is a winner today,” said Starks and Gjonaj when talking to the campers. Campers then had the opportunity to get a picture signed by Starks afterward. “This camp is great for the kids, many inner-city kids don’t have the opportunity to get out of the city.
Starks played eight seasons (1990/91 – 1997/98) for the Knicks as a shooting guard, averaging 14.1 points per game in that span. In 1994 he was named an all-star and helped lead the Knicks to the NBA finals. He is still the Knicks all time leader in three point field goals with 982 and ranks 11th in team history in total points with 8,449. He is especially remembered for “The Dunk,” when he emphatically dunked over Horace Grant and Michael Jordan in the final minutes of Game Two of the 1993 Eastern Conference Finals to help the Knicks win.
Currently Starks works in the Knicks front office as an advisor to Alumni Relations and Fan Development. He is involved with the day- to- day efforts to expand Knicks Alumni Relations, Community Relations and Fan Development programs according to his biography on the Knicks website.” said Gjonaj.