By Dan Guttenplan
---- — Merrimac resident Jim Young stood in the same gym as Celtics great Cedric Maxwell and starting guard Avery Bradley yesterday, and singled out his son, Griffin, as the role model in the room.
Griffin, 11, was the guest of honor yesterday as more than 50 youth basketball players and just as many parents attended a free clinic at Donaghue School hosted by Maxwell and Bradley. Earlier in the day, as part of the RE/MAX New England “Home Court” makeover, the Young family’s driveway was reconstructed into a basketball court, and Griffin’s room was overhauled into a shrine to the Celtics.
The Youngs earned the opportunity after the father, Jim, had his essay for the RE/MAX contest selected as one of three winners of the “Home Court” makeover. Young lost both of his arms after a near-fatal accident on the job as a electric lineman in September 2010. He was electrocuted by 13,800 volts after coming in contact with live wires. He remained in a coma at Mass. General Hospital for three weeks and later required 11 surgeries, including the amputation of both arms.
“I got shocked with 13,000 volts, so I’m lucky to be alive,” Young said. “My family has been there for me. Hence, I wrote an essay about Griffin, which basically said that he helps out in any way possible. He’s been there for me emotionally. He’s done everything he’s been asked to do. As a father, it’s great to see your son act that way.”
Griffin, a sixth-grader at the Donaghue School who plays in the Pentucket travel basketball league, now has a collection of Celtics Fathead decals over his bedroom wall, as well as a host of youth basketball players grateful for his commitment to his family. Parents and players alike took turns thanking Griffin on their way out of the gym at the conclusion of yesterday’s clinic, causing the sixth-grader to bristle at the notion that his behavior led to a visit from Maxwell, Bradley and “Lucky,” the Celtics mascot.
“My dad wrote the essay,” Griffin said. “It was about how I help around the house and stuff, but he won.”
Maxwell opened the clinic by telling a story of how he was cut from his high school basketball team as a freshman. He grew four inches — to 6-foot-7 1/2 — by his sophomore season. Maxwell said, “Then my coach was happy to have me.” His moral of the story was that youth players should never stop trying.
“Not everybody is going to be great,” Maxwell said. “Be the best you can be.”
Bradley told a story of how he nearly quit after his sophomore year of high school out of frustration that he was not ranked as one of the top 100 basketball players in his class. His mother encouraged him to keep working, and by his senior year, he was the top-ranked player in his class. Bradley chose the number zero for his Celtics jersey as a reminder that he had to start over from the bottom.
“When I got to the NBA, I had to reprove myself,” Bradley said. “If you want to be a great basketball player, you have to work at it every day.”
Maxwell and Bradley then led a 40-minute clinic for the youth players, teaching fundamentals of defense, dribbling and left-handed layups. They then answered a series of questions from the youth players and their parents. Of note, Bradley said the toughest shooting guard for him to cover is Kobe Bryant. His favorite teammates are Jeff Green and Courtney Lee. Maxwell said he had the most trouble guarding Hakeem Olajuwan, and his favorite teammate was Robert Parrish, whom he nicknamed “The Chief” after a character in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.”
Pentucket Regional High freshman Conor O’Neil was one of three youth players selected to attempt to take Bradley off the dribble. He was the only one to avoid getting the ball stolen from Bradley, although he lost his dribble out of bounds after attempting to pass it to himself through Bradley’s legs.
“I was very nervous,” O’Neil said. “I was planning what I was going to do. I knew he wasn’t going to move, so I put it between his legs and it went out of bounds.”
Bradley has participated in the RE/MAX clinics each of the last two years. He left yesterday’s session energized from the experience.
“It’s an amazing program,” Bradley said. “I love doing it, I love meeting the families. It’s the highlight of my day. The stories are amazing. That’s what attracts me to this. It makes me want to do it every year. I’m hoping I can stay on the Celtics so I can come back every year.”