NBA athletes play ball on Shalhevet’s new court

STARSTRUCK: Sacramento Kings’ Seth Curry, and Clippers’ Blake Griffin were the first to practice in the new gym.

By Zev Kent, Sports Editor

For several weeks in August, NBA stars Blake Griffin and Seth Curry trained in Shalhevet’s brand new gym.

According to Head of School Rabbi Ari Segal, a contact who wished to remain anonymous connected Griffin to Shalhevet.  The star power forward for the Los Angeles Clippers was looking for someplace quiet to train on his own.

“It all started a few weeks ago when we got a call from someone, who got a call from Blake Griffin’s trainer, looking for a gymnasium for him to practice,” Rabbi Segal said. “He wanted something a little more convenient and he wanted to have his own private, quiet space.”

The caller said only that he was looking on behalf of one of the Clippers’ top two players.

“So I figured that it was either Chris Paul or Blake Griffin,” Rabbi Segal said. “I asked if Griffin needs anything and the person said all he wants is privacy.” Rabbi Segal said that Griffin was surprised when he came into the gym.

“He walked in and was blown away,” said Rabbi Segal, who was there at the time. “He said that the gym was really nice. “He was the first person to really use the gym, and when he walked in, you could see he was impressed.”

Mr. Griffin talked with Rabbi Segal, Principal Reb Noam Weissman and Board President Larry Gill, and agreed to shoot a video, later e-mailed to the community.

“I got a chance to break in the new gym and see how it is,” Mr. Griffin said in the video. “It’s amazing so far.”

According to Rabbi Segal, Mr. Griffin practiced in the gym for a few days, and then left.

A few weeks later, Rabbi Segal received a call from a different person, who had seen the video of Griffin, saying that Seth Curry was looking for a gym to practice. Curry plays for the Sacramento Kings, and is the brother of Golden State Warriors star, Stephen Curry.

This person, who also wished to remain anonymous, worked for a company called HandleLife, an organization that trains basketball players— and manages Seth Curry’s training.

Mr. Curry came and tried the gym out for a day.

“I got a chance to check out this gym,” said Mr. Curry. “Blake Griffin told me about it—Shalhevet 2015!”

Joined by other players from HandleLife, Mr. Curry continued to use the gym until the week before school, when students came in for AP Bootcamp and saw him there.

“Until school formally starts and we need the gym, I’ve got no problem with NBA players wanting to use it,” said Rabbi Segal. “It’s fun, it brings recognition to the school, and it confirms the quality of our facility.”

But he said the school wouldn’t continue to do this unless it became a source of revenue.

“The fact that NBA players are interested in our facility is awesome, and could maybe generate some income,” said Rabbi Segal. “We will only do that during the free time when students aren’t around and using the gym.”

“We are looking mainly for summer and other breaks during the school year,” said Rabbi Segal. “Our number one priority is students using the facility — we didn’t build the gym to be an NBA training facility. NBA players are not getting priority over students.”

Even though two videos were posted with the NBA players in the gym, Shalhevet isn’t making such a big deal out of the situation. Rabbi Segal says that this is to respect the players’ privacy.

“That’s one of the things they like about this,” said Rabbi Segal. “They keep on commenting on how amazing our security is. Not just the building, but the people as well.”

Rabbi Segal said the NBA stars complimented Shalhevet students on how they have dealt  with the visitors in the gym.

“Our students are very respectful, and they love that,” Rabbi Segal said. “They think it’s the coolest thing in the world that our students are looking in, smiling and then going to class. They think that’s crazy compared to their other experiences.”