Monday, July 02, 2007

Davidson Basketball Camp

For the last three years, I have worked Bob McKillop's Davidson basketball camp. Each year that I come back, I hear the same inspirational stories, hang out with the same high school and college coaches from around the country, and even coach the same kids (or at least their younger brothers or cousins).

While its family reunion aura might feel a bit stuffy to some outsiders, there is a general quality about Davidson basketball camp that is as unique as the college, its students, its athletic department and its national reputation.

This camp takes kids from ages 9 to 18 and teaches them everything from a triple threat position to strategies of offensive movement to lessons about selfhood and community. When Coach McKillop opens the camp by proclaiming that he looks forward to learning from everyone as much as he looks forward to teaching, I actually believe him. Why? Because of the immense training that I have received from groups of kids over three years when I am supposed to be the one doing the training.

I've watched as kids who lack the ability to get the ball in the basket have sought out help on every other part of their game: dribbling, passing, rebounding...knowing that one day they will be strong enough to shoot and they better work on everything else in the meantime.

I've watched as a generation that has largely abandoned the role model/hero system of learning and goal-setting sits around after camp to watch Davidson players run up and down the court. They come in the next morning and try to defend like Max, or pass like Jason or shoot like Steph. They are inspired for life by guys who are just playing a game.

I've listened every day as Coach McKillop tells the same stories about his own life: his "take-out man" experience in 76ers training camp, the time Michael Bree didn't listen in the huddle and WCU's Kevin Martin won the game, all of the little things that Davidson does to stay focused as a team (pennies, links, tennis balls). McKillop has told inspirational stories about former players like Bill Wennington and Matt Dougherty. He has called out players in attendance like Jason Richards, Boris Meno and John Falconi. Ultimately, he has opened himself and his world to a bunch of young boys that have heeded the metaphors of challenge, self-confidence, endurance and righteousness.

As a sports writer in a world where headline news consists of the fact that A-Rod's wife had an obscenity printed on her shirt, it can often be hard to justify how my job does any good for anyone else. The drive of the journalist has always been to create word pictures and significance out of the emotion and emotionless of our lives. For Coach McKillop, his drive is to take a game...a game about which he knows every single little detail and potentiality...and make it important.

If something is going to connect all of us here on earth, let it be basketball instead of Paris Hilton. Let it be basketball instead of insincere cynicism. Let it be basketball...says Coach McKillop. For every single camper and coach at last week's camp: we agree.

Here are some of the juicy highlights of camp for you Kool-Aid drinkers:

-Rumors about the final games on the schedule point to excellent teams in BCS conferences. Davidson will either have an atrocious record heading into conference play, or be ranked in the Top 20.

-Stephen Curry made an excellent showing at several pickup games before heading out to attend Kobe Bryant's Skills Camp. He is now playing on the U.S. U-19 national team.

-While walking around campus, Aaron Bond was consistently flagged down by students thinking he was Jason Morton. The incoming freshman plays with the same confidence that Morton did, although decision-making is still very poor. When Bond starts making the right decisions about when to pass and shoot, he could be extremely dangerous, even as a freshman.

-The Davidson athletic administration was out in full force promoting Davidson basketball through constantly running videos that played whenever parents were in the area. With season ticket forms and 06/07 media guides floating around everywhere, there surely wasn't a single parent not tempted to invest in the 07/08 product.

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