Former Saluki Jamaal Tatum returns to reach out and teach

By Gus Bode

Jamaal Tatum’s aspirations of reaching the NBA took a backseat Saturday to fulfilling the dreams of youngsters in the Carbondale community.

Tatum, a three-year starter at SIU and 2007 Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year, returned to Carbondale Saturday to host the second annual Jamaal Tatum Pro Basketball Clinic, which took place Saturday at the Recreation Center.

The Jefferson City, Mo., native has been hampered by injuries in his pro career and said he is working hard as he continues to make an effort to play basketball at the next level.

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‘I feel like last season I played really well. I worked hard,’ Tatum said. ‘My goal now is to be able to stay on a roster and play in the NBA.’

Last season, Tatum played for the Idaho Stampede of the Association’s Developmental League where he averaged 11.8 points per game.

‘ Tatum said his time as a Saluki really helped his work ethic. In his four-year career, Tatum was a part of four conference title winners, including the team’s last MVC Tournament championship in 2005. He was also was one of the team’s senior leaders on the 2007 Sweet Sixteen squad.

Tatum put aside his NBA training to give back to the southern Illinois community he grew fond of during his time at SIU.

He said it made him feel good to give back to the community that gave him so much while he donned the Saluki maroon, so Tatum said giving back was something he was able to do with joy.

Approximately 50 children were separated into groups and participated in offensive and defensive drills at various stations. At the final stop, the children were able to get some one-on-one time with the former Saluki great.

Tatum treated each child as an individual. For some he would jokingly block and for others, he would lift them to get a better shot at the basket.

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Darren Brooks, a two-time Valley Player of the Year award recipient, was one of several former Salukis aiding Tatum at his camp.

‘The highlight of this whole day is seeing the kids smile,’ Brooks said.

Cameron Smith was among the volunteer helpers at the camp and said he wishes he could have been a part of last year’s camp as well.

Smith said he missed out because of a prior obligation, but made sure his schedule was clear for the camp’s second go-around.

Smith said he was impressed with the number of Tatum’s former teammates that came out in support of the camp, as Smith said it showed the kind of quality players Chris Lowery brought to the team on the court, as well as off it.

‘I think it says a lot about the kind of guys that Coach Lowery brings in,’ Smith said. ‘He makes sure that we’re not just teammates, but also brothers.’

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