ROCHESTER HILLS — Jimmy Moceri kept inching his wheelchair away from the hoop, but for seven attempted shots at the top of the key, the result was the same — swish.
Moceri, along with former professional basketball player Greg Grant, were on hand at Rochester Hills Lutheran Northwest to deliver some words of wisdom to campers June 20.
The third- through ninth-graders were attending first-year Northwest boys basketball coach Troy Marks’ summer camp. Marks said he brought Moceri and Grant to the camp to provide an inspirational message to the youngsters.
“He was swishing them, and I can barely make them,” Garrett Kuppler, 10, of Macomb said of Moceri.
“I get lucky once out of every 10 shots,” 10-year-old Casey Sylvester of Utica piped in.
Moceri’s and Grant’s message was that to be successful, it doesn’t take luck. It takes hard work.
“One thing is, you have to have goals. You have to have goals to make sure you’re working towards something to get better,” Grant told the campers in between taking questions asking how tall he is and if he could still dunk. “When everyone else quits, that’s when you have to keep going.”
Grant, who runs Greg Grant Basketball and Training Center in Sterling Heights and is also a Mount Clemens native, spoke of his experiences playing overseas and in the NBA summer league and camps.
He also explained how hard work on the basketball court, and in the classroom, are ingredients for success.
“Like Coach Grant said, you have to be good student-athletes,” Marks noted. “These young men have to understand that if you get bad grades, then you are limiting yourself.”
Another theme of the camp was perseverance. Grant spoke of how Moceri is an inspiration.
“It can make you realize what can happen to you in life and what you can battle through,” Grant said. “Let me tell you something, Jimmy will never walk again, but when it comes to being positive and looking forward to every day, this guy is incredible.”
Moceri, a 2007 graduate of Macomb Dakota, was paralyzed from the waist down following a care accident the summer before his senior year of high school.
Currently, he plays for the Fusion Firestorm in the National Wheelchair Basketball Association.
From his time at Dakota, Moceri is second all-time in 3-point percentage in a single season (43.9 percent) and second in free-throw percentage (82 percent) in a single season, along with a handful of other top 10 records.
When Moceri was asked about when his accident happened, even he was surprised to hear himself say seven years ago.
“That’s the crazy thing about life,” he told the kids. “Time flies, so you have to take advantage of everything.”
Marks, who also coached the Sterling Heights Stevenson girls varsity team the past four years, said he has known Grant for years through basketball and remembers when Moceri played at Dakota. He also knew that the two would deliver a message to the young basketball players far more important than any proper shooting technique or spending time at the free-throw line.
“It’s one of those things where Jimmy was one of the top players in Macomb County, then getting into the accident and how he’s overcome his injuries. I just think it’s a great inspiration for kids to see someone take a negative and turn it into a total positive,” Marks said. “To me, it’s someone that wakes up every day and lives life to the fullest. When we may complain about aches and pains, here’s someone that is a great role model for not only kids, but also adults.”
Sylvester said he took away some important lessons from the day.
“It just makes you believe you can do something, even if you’re hurt or injured,” he said.
Near the end of the presentation, Moceri wowed the crowd with his shooting touch, but did it only as part of a deal — Grant had to prove he could still dunk.
Before the 6-foot-10 big man easily put one down, he explained to the kids that he wasn’t a “finesse” dunker and that he’d broken three backboards in his career, which then begged the question from one camper asking if he would do it again for them.
“You’d have to ask Coach Marks, who’s going to pay for it?” Grant said with a smile.