BY JOSH COHEN, OrlandoMagic.com
ORLANDO – The Orlando Magic made a lot of progress last season. They shook off a slow start and ended up winning 12 more games than the prior year, the largest win improvement in the Eastern Conference.
There were many reasons why the Magic got so much better as the season went on. The team getting healthier was a big factor, as were player buy-in and squad chemistry.
With that, there’s a buzz in the air throughout the Central Florida area about the Magic and what they can accomplish in the upcoming 2023-24 season.
The Magic’s players can certainly sense it, too, when they are out and about. One such example took place on Thursday, Aug. 3 at Genesis Health Club in Maitland, where starting center Wendell Carter Jr. made a surprise appearance at a Magic youth basketball camp.
The 6-foot-10, 265-pounder, who’s made a huge impact on the local community ever since getting traded to the Magic in March 2021, provided basketball instruction to the campers and shared inspirational messages with them.
“Everybody loves the game of basketball, but at the end of the day, I feel like you’re never successful until you are able to lead the younger generation,” he said. “To be able to come out today and put some smiles on kids’ faces, (that) always means a lot to me. That’s what I’m built on and that’s what keeps me going every day.”
Not only did he encourage them with basketball tips and life advice, but they gave him even more motivation as he continues preparing for next season and made him feel even more optimistic about the team’s long-term outlook.
“There were a couple kids saying, ‘you are going to be the number one seed this year’ or ‘you are going to beat the Golden State Warriors’ and little things like that,” said Carter, who averaged a career-high 15.2 points per game last season to go along with 8.7 rebounds and 2.3 assists. “Everybody is keeping up with us. They understand that we are young and we are ready. We are ready to finally take that leap, in my opinion. If everyone stays healthy, I think we have a chance to be a really good team.”
In addition to having the best season of his young career last year, Carter was recognized for his acts of kindness and generosity by being named the 2022-23 Rich & Helen DeVos Community Enrichment Award winner, which goes annually to the Magic player who has dedicated his efforts off the court for the purpose of enhancing other’s lives.
The now 24-year-old has consistently volunteered his time off the court and to the Central Florida community supporting the Magic’s mission to be world champions on and off the court delivering legendary moments every step of the way. In addition to supporting the Magic’s initiatives, Carter has assisted the Orlando Magic Youth Foundation (OMYF) and the NBA in their community goals as well.
Even during the offseason, Carter spends a lot of time contributing to community outreach programs. In late May, he participated in a live streaming Mario Kart Relay Race video game event organized by AdventHealth Foundation Central Florida to raise money for cancer research.
It means a lot to him to help kids reach their goals, which is why it was a no-brainer for him to help out at Thursday’s basketball camp and share in the Magic’s vision of building a stronger, more vibrant, and more active community.
“That’s something I’ve always told myself I would do once I got traded here and realized what kind of organization the Orlando Magic is,” he said. “Whenever I’m in the city, I want to at least be able to do, if not big things, little things around the city just to help. For example today, trying to find ways to inspire the youth.”
Magic summer youth basketball camps are for boys and girls ages 7-17. The camp includes expert instruction from the Orlando Magic Youth Basketball Academy, a camp T-shirt, a full-size NBA basketball, Magic bag and a ticket to a future Orlando Magic home game. Past camps have included appearances by Magic Head Coach Jamahl Mosley, Magic Assistant Coaches Dale Osbourne and Jesse Mermuys, STUFF the Magic Mascot, SWISH the Osceola Magic Mascot, Orlando Magic Community Ambassadors Nick Anderson and Bo Outlaw, and Orlando Magic legends.