Brandon Knight (right) hopes to improve his overall game this season. (Photo by RotoRob.com)
By Billy Squicciarino
Miami — We attended the recent 5th Annual All-Star Basketball Kids Camp, sponsored since its inception by Warren Henry Auto Group and hosted this year by former Miami Heat forward Mark Strickland.
The event, held August 11 to 14 at the Michael-Ann Russell Jewish Community Center in North Miami Beach featured several current and former NBA players teaching campers some basic basketball fundamentals, but more importantly, the value of teamwork.
This was a great experience for us, as we got to witness firsthand how much kids love the game of basketball. In addition to supplying special T-shirts for all participants, Warren Henry Auto sponsored 10 underprivileged children from We Have a Dream Foundation and the Curley’s House Food Bank so they could attend the camp.
Among the NBAers who made appearances at the camp were:
- Mark Strickland: Strickland is a former Heat forward who played in the NBA from 1995 to 2002. Used almost exclusively off the bench during his career, he was a rotation player whose best season was in 1997-98 with the Heat when he averaged 6.8 points, 4.2 boards and 0.7 blocks in 16.6 MPG.
- Udonis Haslem, PF/C, Miami Heat (active): Besides one season with a professional team in France, Haslem has spent his entire career with the Heat, winning three titles. He’s a real hometown hero — he was born in Miami, played high school ball in Miami and starred with the Florida Gators before turning pro. Haslem is the Heat’s all-time leading rebounder.
- Brandon Knight, PG, Milwaukee Bucks (active): Knight was a huge star in high school growing up in Fort Lauderdale, twice being named Mr. Florida Basketball before heading off to play college ball in Kentucky. He was the eighth overall pick by the Pistons in the 2011 NBA Draft and was named to the NBA All-Rookie First Team in 2012. Last summer, the was dealt to the Bucks in the Brandon Jennings trade.
- Kenny Anderson: Anderson is a former PG that spent his first few seasons with the Nets and then bounced around for the remainder of his career, which spanned 1991 to 2006, the final season of which he spent playing in Lithuania. An All-Star in 1994, he averaged 12.6 points, 6.1 assists and 1.5 steals over his career.
- Dennis Rodman: A five-time NBA Champion, Rodman was an NBAer from 1986 to 2000 before playing a few seasons in the ABA and Internationally. “The Worm” was one of the best defenders in the game, averaging 13.1 RPG, leading the league in boards for seven straight seasons.
- George McCloud: Florida-born and bred McCloud starred at FSU before embarking on an NBA career that spanned 1989 to 2002. He averaged 9.0 points, 3.1 rebounds and 2.3 assists over his career, and in 1995-96, he hoisted 678 3-point attempts — still an NBA record.
Note that not all the players were at the camp every day, so on the day we attended, we only got to speak to Knight and Strickland.
We were only allotted a tad over one minute to speak with Knight, and unfortunately, they had not arranged for a quiet room to conduct interviews, so we could barely make out what he was saying as there were announcements being made over a loudspeaker at the same time. We managed to cobble together the following:
RotoRob.com: Do you have any specific goals for the upcoming season?
Brandon Knight: No, just to get better.
RR: Anything specific you’re trying to improve?
BK: I mean everything, better in all areas of the game.
RR: What was your reaction when you got traded from Detroit to Milwaukee?
BK: Just try to make the best of it.
RR: How does it make you feel that you’re now going to be coached by Jason Kidd, a man who understands what it means to be a floor general?
BK: Good. I get to learn from him. I get to learn from his experiences and get a different insight on the game.
RR: Does it help that he was a point guard like you?
BK: It helps that he was a great player, he’s a Hall of Famer.
We also managed to get three minutes of Strickland’s time and here’s what he had to say (or at least what we could hear him say above the children screaming in the background):
RotoRob.com: Out of all the current NBA players, who reminds you of yourself?
Mark Strickland: Joakim Noah. I love him, man. He’s an old school player, he plays hard, he does all the dirty stuff — rebounding, playing defense, but he also scores. He knows what he can do and does what he does best. He doesn’t try to do anything that he can’t do, he doesn’t do anything to hurt his team. He’s a great player. Playing with energy — that was my job.
RR: What was the highlight of your NBA career?
MS: Like, woah, I’m making it, that was the highlight, man, because I had to play in the CBA, the USBL, Puerto Rico. The journey wasn’t easy but I got in the league. That was the highlight and then once I played my second year and I played a lot, then I knew I belonged.
RR: Yeah, I grew up watching you guys play in the late ’90s and you’d come off the bench and bring that energy.
MS: They give you a million to do energy, you do energy.
RR: Do you play any Fantasy sports?
MS: Nah. My friend tried to get me into Fantasy football, but I’m not really into that. I’m not a video game player, never have been. Mostly, I do softball on Thursday nights and be a father. That’s what I’m mostly concerned about — being a father. My son is first team now and he needs me and that’s what I’m doing.
RR: So what are you doing for yourself these days to try to keep busy?
MS: I work with All-Star, I run the sports division, I do the basketball camp clinic and the March Student and Basketball Academy, I also deal with the sports agencies, sports management of the players. We just started that maybe five months ago. But I’ve been working with All-Star, this is now my third year. So I’m pretty much doing that and being a dad. I do sports talk radio every Tuesday night. And that’s it. I do a little coaching. I did Bakersfield in the D-League, but it took too much time away from my plans so I stopped doing that and I coached a little prep and this year I may go back to the D-League.
RR: Do you still follow the Heat?
MS: Ya, I go to the games, it’s a little too Hollywood for me now. I’m kind of a low-key kind of guy. The games are a little bit too much. What I do though, I support them. (Miami Heat’s Vice President, Sports Media Relations) Tim Donovan I’m really close to, he gives me a lot of the giveaways, autographed pictures and stuff like that. I keep in contact with them. Once a Heat, always a Heat.
The NBA players all worked closely with the children, teaching them game skills and also offering up motivational speeches that will help them all as they move along in life. They also signed autographs for the campers.
We had an incredible experience, as it was great to see how an event like this can really affect the children and their futures. Programs such as these are vital to keep young kids on the right path. We are grateful to have athletes that are willing to take time out of their busy schedules to do this for the children.
Billy Squicciarino is RotoRob.com’s Miami correspondent. This is his first article for the site.
Now it’s your turn. Let us know in the comments below what you think of the NBA’s effort to give back to the community with events such as this.
Save $1 on the 2014 Fantasy Football Guide