Kids laced up their shoes and took to the hardwood for the clinic that included instruction and mentorship from the pros — Julyan Stone, a graduate of Dos Pueblos High School who recently signed with the Toronto Raptors, joined by UCSB alumni Orlando Johnson of the Indiana Pacers and James Nunnally of the Bakersfield Jam, who recently played for the Miami Heat summer league team and is fourth on UCSB’s all-time scoring list.
The three-day camp taught kids the fundamentals of basketball — dribbling, shooting, passing and defense — with one-on-one instruction, interactive lectures, scrimmages and group competition.
“Besides the skills, the message of our camp is that whatever you dream of is a possibility, and we just want to install that in the kids,” said Stone, who founded the camp along with Johnson and Nunnally.
Stone added that the camp gave these three longtime friends an opportunity to give back to the community and inspire a new generation of kids to excel in life regardless of their circumstances.
“We all came from similar backgrounds and started with little or nothing, and were able to make it here now matter what and get through adversity,” Stone said, “so that’s our main message to the kids.”
It was apparent from the smiles on the kids’ faces as they raced up and down the court that taking cues from their coaches was not only fun but also increased their self-confidence, an important attribute that would translate both on and off the court.
“I love it,” Johnson told Noozhawk after a Q&A session with the kids. “It excites me because these kids, you see how eager they are to learn and you really get their attention and they are looking at you like what’s he going to do next? I’m really happy to be out here and to help these kids and give all the talents I was blessed with to help them and try to encourage them.”
On the last day of camp, kids munched on burgers and hot dogs at a barbecue-style luncheon, where they posed for pictures and lined up for autograph signings and prizes from the group of elite basketball players — who acted as friends, coach and mentor during the camp.
The NBA players gave away 30 scholarships to the United Boys & Girls Clubs of Santa Barbara County to ensure that youths from low-income families also have the chance to experience the unique camp.
An overwhelmingly positive response to the event gives organizers hope that this is the first of many camps to come for Santa Barbara-area kids.
“This is not about money for us. We just want them to have a good experience. We weren’t always able to afford the expensive camps, so that’s why we are doing this,” Nunnally said. “We want them to have an experience that they will remember.”
Additionally, a local teen was awarded a $2,0000 scholarship based on a 500-word essay, titled “How High School Athletics Has Impacted My Life,” describing the youth’s college academic goals and athletic aspirations. Stone, Johnson and Nunnally unanimously selected the winner of the award designed to help the youth succeed in academic pursuits and become an effective leader within the community.
On Friday night, the three players joined other professional players to battle the Santa Barbara Breakers at San Marcos High School for the Mid-Summer Benefit Game benefiting the local Boys & Girls Clubs as well as the Santa Barbara Basketball Hall of Fame College Scholarship Fund.
The tightly contested game brought the Breakers against a collection of NBA professionals, including James Ennis who played at Ventura High School and was a recent draft pick of the Miami Heat; Travis Leslie of the Los Angeles Clippers; and Zach Andrews of the Los Angeles Lakers.
Actor Don Johnson was head coach for the NBA pros’ team who squared off against an impressive roster of players assembled by Curt Pickering, Breakers founder and owner, led by all-time leading scorer Tim Taylor and UCLA grad Billy Knight.
The impressive collection of talent shone brightly during an inspiring week filled with training, life lessons and joy for local youths during a camp that is likely to become an ongoing and growing part of summer in Santa Barbara over the coming years.
— Noozhawk iSociety columnist Melissa Walker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkSociety, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.