Belle Vernon freshman gives talk, meets with NBA’s best at All-Star weekend

Thursday, February 20, 2020 | 6:20 PM

Viva Kreis is becoming a regular around the pro basketball scene.

Just a freshman at Belle Vernon, Kreis spent a few days in Chicago for NBA All-Star Weekend, rubbing elbows with the elite of pro basketball and even interviewing some players for the Jr. NBA.

Last summer, Kreis hung around a dozen WNBA teams for a research project.

Kreis’ project was part of National History Day, and the theme was “Breaking Barriers in History.”

She, of course, used her love of basketball to stoke up the endeavor.

During all-star weekend, she talked with several players, including slam dunk contest runner-up Aaron Gordon of the Orlando Magic.

She shot free throws with the Los Angeles Clippers’ Kawhi Leonard, the all-star MVP.

Being invited to speak at the Jr. NBA Leadership Council was beyond anything I could have ever imagined,” Kreis said. “I was able to share my experiences and research from my WNBA 12-team tour last summer with NBA leaders, legends, players and directors of other NBA-related programs.

“The entire NBA All-Star Weekend gave me once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to meet and talk with professionals who are working in the game of basketball at different events, including the Her Time to Play clinic, the Gatorade Invitational and other leadership discussions.”

While the experience is incredible for Kreis, she did not forget about her own team.

Kreis flew home Monday morning and made it in time for Belle Vernon’s playoff game against Freeport at North Hills.

Belle Vernon coach Ronnie Drennan used the word “empowering” to describe Kreis and her enthusiastic ambition.

“We’re extremely proud of her,” Drennen said. “I am not sure I could do what she did. I think this is bigger than what anyone thinks. I think its more important than what we truly think. This is just the beginning of something absolutely life-changing for this young girl.

“It all started with stepping out of her comfort zone and writing a letter, which turned into interviewing NBA All-Stars, WNBA players, CEOs and GMs, Hall of Famers and shooting free throws with the NBA’s most recent Finals MVP (Leonard).”

Drennen added, with a laugh: “I’m a bit jealous … but I am one of her biggest fans and supporters.”

Bill Beckner Jr. is a TribLive reporter covering local sports in Westmoreland County. He can be reached at


More Basketball

Westmoreland County boys basketball notebook: Greensburg Central Catholic coaching tree blossoms
High school roundup for Feb. 20, 2024: No. 2 McKeesport holds off No. 15 Hampton in Class 5A 1st round
No. 6 Jeannette rallies to beat Sewickley Academy, avoid 1st-round upset
2nd-seeded Greensburg CC boys shake off rust, rout Frazier in 1st round
What to watch for in WPIAL sports on Feb. 21, 2024: Quarterfinals begin on WPIAL hardwood