Former, Current Runnin’ Utes Rally For Good Causes
SALT LAKE CITY- “Once a Ute, always a Ute” is uttered a lot by anyone remotely tied into Utah Athletics and for good reason. The Runnin’ Utes family, former and current, have been living that mantra the past few days giving back to the Salt Lake community through former Ute Brandon Taylor’s basketball camp and charity showcase. Both events featured current Utah basketball players such as Jaxon Brenchley and Branden Carlson, along with former greats making their mark in the NBA like Kyle Kuzma and Delon Wright.
Seeing guys like @kylekuzma or @delonwright in such a casual setting with those kids was really cool when you consider the heights they’ve reached in their careers. Could be wrong, but I don’t know that happens many other places. #GoUtes #UteProud
— Michelle Bodkin (@BodkinKSLsports) August 9, 2022
Having a brotherhood and network of Runnin’ Utes to draw on to put on events that show his appreciation for Utah has been nothing short of a dream for Taylor.
Taylor has led a very fortunate life having built a solid career overseas in Europe and now Asia next year since he graduated from Utah in 2015. Playing in Europe has not only allowed him to give back when he’s in the states, but also be an example of how the NBA isn’t the end-all, be-all to having a good career in basketball.
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“I didn’t really know too much about Europe before leaving,” Taylor said. “Everyone thinks about the NBA, but you aren’t really educated about Europe. I’ll be going to China next year. Just having that perspective and telling people there is another side to it other than the NBA-side is a rewarding feeling because I can prepare people for more realistic expectations. It’s very hard to go to the NBA. It’s easier to go to Europe- a lot more people will probably make in Europe than the NBA. It’s a rewarding feeling to be able to look back and tell them they can still live a very great life going to Europe as long as you stay dedicated. It’s different, but this world is so big for us not to explore.”
The Utah Connection
This is Taylor’s second basketball camp. His first was in 2018, but the Covid-19 pandemic shut things down for a few years. Now that life appears to be getting back to a more normal pattern, Taylor felt it was time to roll the camp out again, this time with some help from fellow former Ute, Lawrence Borha who runs FINAO Hoops.
“With that alumni connection, LB used to come up to the U and train us,” Taylor said. “That’s how we started a kind of friendship. We would kind of train off and on while I was in college and then when I turned pro, when I would come back here to Utah I would hit him up. It’s like family, the alumni connection- he’s like a brother to me.”
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Borha wasn’t the only Ute Taylor hit up about helping with his camp and the Powder League Charity Showcase. As mentioned previously, current Runnin’ Utes have been taking time out of their day to help Taylor coach kids up at his camp along with some of his former teammates who currently reside in the NBA. Having a strong network of people to rely on to make a difference is something Taylor says he hasn’t taken for granted.
“It’s cool for us to be Utah alum and playing here,” Taylor said. “But obviously to be able to do things like this- to have a camp and give these kids an opportunity- how many times can they say they saw and got to talk to Kyle Kuzma and Delon Wright? These NBA players? I know when I was a kid that was so cool. It’s just super important for me to have that connection level with these kids.”
Making Life A Little Easier
Being a kid and trying to “fit in” has always been a tall task, but even more so with the emergence of social media. It is Taylor’s hope that his camp provides a little relief from that pressure and that the kids can have fun learning new basketball skills while actually developing a relationship with some of the biggest stars in the NBA.
“Once you get into this gym, and especially with my guys- Kyle, Delon, me, everyone else that’s involved- I want to the kids to feel like, yeah they can be star-struck because they are, but I don’t want them to feel like they have to act a certain way,” Taylor said. “I want them to feel comfortable, I want them to feel like they’re a homie. Not a lot of kids have the opportunity to say that and I know it goes a long way with kids. Kids struggle, they go to school, you have to impress people, you have to do this, you have to do that, but you went to a camp and were a homie with Kyle Kuzma, who do you have to go an impress?”
Runnin’ Utes Give Back
Another component of Taylor’s time in Salt Lake giving back was the Powder League Charity Showcase that benefitted Utah Foster Care. Taylor says he had family that came up through foster care so trying to raise awareness and money for the cause was an easy “yes”. It was also one more excuse to get together with his college friends and do something for the community they feel like gave them so much while they were in college.
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“The whole idea was to put something together for the community,” Taylor said. “For the community to come and see some action. As far as the foster care system, I have family members that went into foster care and you hear stories- some great stories and some sad stories. For us putting on the event like that and being able to make a little money and to give back in any kind of way to those people- it goes a long way. Just whatever we can do to help our community? It’s a no-brainer for me.”
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