To celebrate his Indianapolis roots during the holidays, Pacers starting point guard Jeff Teague hosted his first basketball tournament last week at Anderson High School. Honoring his parents’ hometown, Anderson, Ind., Teague sponsored six underprivileged families for the tournament, which was open to the public. During halftime, he gave out gifts to more than 100 children.
Also this holiday season, Teague participated in The Salvation Army Indiana Division’s Angel Tree program, where he covered 30 kids in need. Not only did they receive toys and games, but also clothing, bedding and hygiene items.
Teague recently chatted with the NBPA about his hometown connection, highlighting his journey to the NBA, how he’s enjoyed his time back home, his play this season and more.
NBPA: What was your experience like working on your holiday event?
Jeff Teague: We brought gifts and I just tried to help people this holiday get in the holiday spirit, have a little tournament for the families and their kids. We had a lot of fun giving back to the community, especially in that little town where my mom and dad are from.
NBPA: When you talk to kids, what important message do you share with them about how got to the NBA and made it a success for you?
JT: Just having a dream and believing in it. Being from Indianapolis, we weren’t getting a lot of recognition for basketball at that time. And I was just trying to follow a dream, work hard every day, make sure I stayed in school and got good grades. And I had an opportunity to go to a great college and make my dream come true.
NBPA: What was the moment for you growing up when you thought the NBA could become a reality?
JT: My sophomore year in college. One of my friends called and was, like, “You’re on the draft boards.” I never thought about being in that situation at all. And that’s when it hit me, like, “I could probably make it to the NBA,” but still not thinking that I could do it, not thinking about it. That summer, my AAU coach told me that I had a good chance of making it, and I just went with it.
NBPA: Every time you put on your jersey with “Indiana” on it, what does that mean to you, knowing you’re representing your home state?
JT: It’s real cool being from Indiana and growing up and only really being able to watch the Pacers games and IU [Indiana University] games. Now, having an opportunity to be on the floor [of Bankers Life Fieldhouse], and my friends and family can see me every game, it’s cool.
NBPA: What have been your top moments so far being back home with family and friends?
JT: Probably the most fun is just being able to be home for Thanksgiving, being around my friends and family. I hadn’t done that in about 10 years, so it was pretty cool.
NBPA: What’s most special to you about being all together during the holiday time?
JT: The holidays are always good. I love being back and having an opportunity just to see other people smile. So being able to see my family, my mom and dad actually be home on a holiday, it’s pretty cool. And then around this time, I love going to places just to do whatever I can to make people smile.
NBPA: Has it been crazy with ticket requests?
JT: Yeah, too many ticket requests. That’s probably the only tough part about being at home—a lot of friends, a lot of family want to come to the games. And I always tell them, “If you want to come, buy a ticket” [laughs].
NBPA: What’s an off day like for you in Indianapolis?
JT: I go hang out with my friends and go over their house in my old neighborhood, and we may go to some of the spots we went to when we were in high school. But for the most part, we just relax and go to a couple of high school games, a couple of AAU games, so it’s always fun.
NBPA: How would you describe the youth high school basketball scene there?
JT: We always have great players. High school basketball in Indiana is huge. We always have really good teams. Any time you go out and want to catch a really good game, there’s probably a good chance on a Friday night that two good teams are playing.
NBPA: Turning to your basketball play, how’s that adjustment going for you with the Pacers?
JT: I’m still adjusting, getting better as the game goes on. But it was a huge adjustment, just a different way of playing with more offensive freedom. I think we’re getting better. We just need to get this thing going and get some wins.
NBPA: With January around the corner, what are your NBA goals looking ahead?
JT: My goal is just to always make the playoffs. I’ve never not played in the playoffs, so hopefully we continue to get better and better, and I can keep the streak alive.