Canada

'Hi Jamal!' Young fans greet NBA star Jamal Murray as he hands out backpacks in Waterloo

'Hi Jamal!' Young fans greet NBA star Jamal Murray as he hands out backpacks in Waterloo

Dozens of children and their families gathered at a community basketball court in Waterloo, Ont., to meet NBA star and hometown hero Jamal Murray on Saturday.

The Denver Nuggets guard was in town to dedicate the new court and hand out backpacks of school supplies.

Murray, who grew up in Kitchener, regularly makes the trip home to give back to the community.

"I just love the energy," he said. "Girls and boys, they love the sport. Keeps them out of trouble. I come out here sometimes and get some shots with some guys and just be a part of the community."

Kids wait excitedly in line for arrival of hometown hero Jamal Murray. (Robin De Angelis/CBC)

Murray hopes the basketball court will help get kids out of the house and off their phones.

"Anytime you put up a court where young kinds wanna grow and learn and be with each other, you know not just basketball but sports in general, keep them active, keep them fit and always be outdoorsy," he said.

Murray partnered with the Region of Waterloo to bring the new hoop to the Amos Avenue community housing complex.

He was touched by the death of a young toddler who was struck by a vehicle while playing outside of the complex in the summer of 2016, and reached out to the region in order to do something for the community.

Jamal Murray signs the backboard of a new community basketball hoop at a housing complex on Amos Avenue. (Robin De Angelis/CBC)

"It's not only a memorial but it's almost like changing the tone of this idea of tragedy into something positive," said housing manager Mina Fayez-Bahgat.

"The family's so grateful. They've been out and participating and Jamal checks in every year when he comes and has a quiet moment with them."

A young fan watches as Jamal Murray signs his brand new basketball, while others wait in line for an autograph. (Robin De Angelis/CBC)

Scott Gleason, who used to coach Murray in Kitchener, brought his two sons Chase and Cooper to get their basketballs signed.

"We care about Jamal and we're proud of him and we like what he's doing here in the neighbourhood," Gleason said.

Those who came out to the event say Murray is a role model and source of pride for the community

The new hoop is already proving popular with neighbourhood kids. (Robin De Angelis/CBC)