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J&R Basketball Camp teaching more than just the game

MIDLOTHIAN, Va. - One player is a Richmond native, born and raised in Southside, a product of George Wythe high.

The other is a transplant from Ohio who has adopted RVA as his second hometown.

Together, they have teamed up to help give some Richmond youngsters an experience they never got as teenagers.

Jesse Pellot-Rosa and Rob Brandenburg are both VCU grads, standouts in their own time with the Rams. Pellot-Rosa played for Jeff Capel in the early 2000's and remembers working basketball camps as a part of his team duties.

"Once I started working those camps, I saw how much fun the kids were having" Pellot-Rosa recalled. "I saw how much the kids were learning from college athletes and different coaches."

Brandenburg is a veteran of VCU's Final Four run in 2011. He attended camps at his high school in Cincinnati, Ohio and took his cue from the older players on the team.

"Going to these camps sparks you and makes you want to work harder" Brandenburg said. "You want to get to where they're at."

The two have joined together to create the J&R Basketball Camp, running for a week at the Midlothian Athletic Center. It's the first year for the venture, the first of what they hope will be a long run of inspiring the next generation of players.

Pellot-Rosa and Brandenburg are teaching more than just dribbling and shooting. Along with the game's fundamentals, they are covering weight training, agility, nutrition and how to power through those times when you might not feel like getting to the gym for a workout.

"To fight through adversity at an early age" Pellot-Rosa explained. "When you're sore and not feeling good but you have to get out there, those are some of the things you will have to go through as you get older."

For Pellot-Rosa, the connection to his hometown is tangible. For Brandenburg, it's built on his days as a Ram and the acceptance he has felt from not just VCU supporters, but the entire RVA.

"Richmond has great people and a great community" Brandenburg said. "Not just the VCU community. There's not many places that you can find in America where you could call 'home'.  When I'm in between seasons, I love to come back here."

Neither Pellot-Rosa nor Brandenburg made it to the NBA after their college days, but they have still had professional careers overseas. Pellot-Rosa has played for 10 years in Puerto Rico and is returning to Iceland for their pro season soon. Brandenburg played nearly 12 months straight in Australia and Spain.

Their travels come as something of a surprise to American kids who only consider one path to pro basketball.

"I had a conversation with a little girl at lunch" Pellot-Rosa said. "She asked 'What is overseas? Why can't you go to the NBA?' Everybody can't go to the NBA. 300 some teams [in the NCAA], 15 players on each team. I did the math for her and showed her the numbers."

"She said 'Can't they add more numbers?' I said 'it doesn't work that way!"