RBA program director Kris Mallet (pictured at top, second from left) accepted the award last week at the Jr. NBA Youth Leadership Conference in Chicago, receiving a $5,000 grand prize from former NBA superstar Grant Hill (pictured right).
“Honestly, I didn’t think we would win – the other five programs (we were up against) are incredible,” said Mallet, who plans to spend most of the $5,000 award on RBA scholarships for children of low-income families. “This award is a great honor.”
Founded 30 years ago, the RBA is Duluth’s largest and most popular youth basketball program. It operates year-round with clinics, leagues, and 3-on-3 tournaments. Almost 700 youth in grades K–12 participated last year, with the help of 68 volunteer coaches.
Mallet credits the RBA’s success to its coaches.
“The RBA wouldn’t happen without them,” she said. “Their dedication to coaching young people in the hopes of seeing them grow and develop on and off the court is inspiring.”
While the RBA has won one of the nation’s top basketball honors, like any good competitor, Mallet still is not satisfied.
“We have made strides to improve youth basketball development as a whole, but we have more to do,” Mallet said. “We are not done improving.”
Top photo, from left: Jennifer Azzi, former WNBA player and college coach; Kris Mallet, RBA program director; Stephanie White, former WNBA player and current head coach of Vanderbilt women’s basketball; Nell Fortner, former college coach and coach of the USA Olympic gold medal team in 2000.