Rising sports journalist Pepper Persley, a 10-year-old New York native, will host the digital series “Jnr. Ballers,” a collaboration that the Brooklyn Nets and New York Liberty have with Xbox. The series will showcase the sense of community that young people find in gaming and the stories will hopefully inspire basketball fans.
“It was really awesome to be a part of,” said Persley, who always brings the good questions to press conferences. “I love that they’re doing something to try to highlight the stories and the dreams of kids. I think that’s super awesome and I don’t think it’s done enough. I’m grateful that they came to me to host it and promote it. I love what they’re doing with it.”
Six kids from the NYPD Community Center in East New York were selected to participate in programs designed to create real-world paths to achieving their personal dreams. The episodes can be found via the Nets’ twitter page, @BrooklynNets, for the remainder of the NBA season and then switch to @NYLiberty at the start of WNBA season.
“I love playing 2K [the NBA video game],” said Persley, who is determined to play college basketball. “It was awesome to be in that space with fellow kids. When I’m doing my journalist work, I’m usually with a lot of adults, so it was great to be with other kids and have a ball.”
The Jnr. Ballers are Hollis Hobbs, Lyric Leftwich, Jabarii Mitchell, Samantha Rodriguez, Leah Rodriguez and Kerick Tejada. All are gamers, but Hobbs, Mitchell and Tejada also have hoop dreams. There will be videos in which all the participants share their dreams. Persley said they had a good time doing the photo shoot and filming the promotional video. Liberty player Betnijah Laney was at Barclays working out and came to greet and talk with them.
“We were on the practice court just playing around,” said Persley. “We were in awe being able to come out of that tunnel [that leads to center court] just like the Liberty and the Nets do. It was a great experience for all of us.”
Persley hopes the digital series garners a few extra WNBA fans. “I try to promote it,” she said. “Hopefully, there will be kids who see what I’m doing and…see they can watch the WNBA and look up to the players.”