Blazers McCollum, Lillard celebrate opening of Dream Center
Portland Trail Blazers CJ McCollum and Damian Lillard swung by the Rockwood Boys & Girls Club to celebrate the launch of the CJ McCollum Dream Center.
McCollum hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Monday, Sept. 17, for the second Dream Center, a learning facility outfitted with computers, cameras and broadcasting equipment at the club, 454 S.E. 165 Ave., Portland.
"In the journalism world there are so many jobs," McCollum told club members. "You can take control of your own futures."
McCollum, 26, is a shooting guard for the Blazers, and was drafted by the Portland-based NBA team in 2013. Lillard, 28, is the Blazers' point guard, and was drafted by the team in 2012. The pair are the Blazers' breakout players.
Jaylen Harris, 13, introduced McCollum at the club.
"Thank you for taking your time to build another Dream Center," Harris said. "This Boys & Girls Club is like a family."
McCollum opened the first Dream Center in 2016 at the Blazers' Boys & Girls Club near the Moda Center, the Blazers' home arena. The first center was created for general learning opportunities, while the latest facility was built to help youths gain reporting experience.
The new center includes a green-painted wall for use as a green screen, and an anchor-style news desk sits at the front of the room.
McCollum broke in the new facility by hosting a taping of his podcast, "Pull Up with CJ McCollum," at the news desk. Reporting is familiar territory for McCollum, who holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from Lehigh University.
Moments before taping, McCollum introduced Lillard as the show's guest, and the crowd cheered (mostly from the adults in the room) with excitement to see the Blazers' other star player, and his appearance was a surprise. The pair was joined by Yahoo Sports Analyst John Shultz for the podcast, and they talked football, Lillard's offseason training regimen and Lillard's latest addition to his family, infant Damien Jr.
Near the end of the podcast, the panelists took questions from children in the crowd.
Responding to a query of how to earn a spot on a university team in the National Collegiate Athletic Association Division 1 conference — the highest competitive college level — McCollum and Lillard said education is key.
Getting the grades needed to attend to gain admittance should come first, McCollum said, and your remaining time should be spent practicing basketball skills.
Zariah Singletary, 14, asked McCollum what the term "Dream Center" meant. McCollum said he named it the Dream Center to help students interested in a career in journalism achieve their goals.
"Having a dream is important. We all have dreams and inspirations of becoming something, and I'm at the point where I want kids to realize that if I can do this stuff, you can," McCollum said. "I think that's what 'Dream Center' means to me: Anything you believe or think of is possible if you back it with work."