“Be a Better Person First, a Better Student-Athlete”
What do you get when you combine the 2011-12 NBA rookie of the year, the Avon Lake High School gym, and an overflow crowd of summer basketball campers?
“Ky-rie – Ky-rie” was the chant as several hundred of the youthful campers waited in eager anticipation for Cleveland Cavaliers star Kyrie Irving to take the floor Saturday morning in the Shoreman gym.
Irving called the sight “humbling” as he walked out and greeted the enthusiastic campers, all wearing t-shirts that bore name.
The day’s schedule called for 220 boys and girls ages 7-18 to participate in a variety of skills stations specializing in the fundamentals of the sport. Groups by age were small to assure that each camper got maximum instruction from the area’s top coaches, including many area high school heads.
“What are they learning? How to be a better person first, a better student athlete,” said Irving. “My dad taught me things that I applied to life – getting better at life. Once they realize that basketball isn’t the ultimate goal – you have to survive in life first of all. As for now, they are kids. I will give them as much advice as I can.”
Irving attributed much of his early learning to his dad, Drederich Irving, who played pro ball in Australia and was also at the Avon Lake camp Saturday.
“I must have practiced the Tim Hardaway cross over more than a million times. When I was in elementary school, that was the only move I had – the cross over,” laughed Irving as he shared that he was given a college offer from Boston University when he was in fifth grade! “That’s kind of why it’s my go-to move now. It was fun learning from those guys like Tim Hardaway and AI (Allen Iversob) and watching them. I grew up on all of them and I have incorporated different things into my game.”
His advice for kids last Saturday? “Anybody can have their own cross –over. They should try their own instead of mine. When I was younger I always wanted the AI (Allen Iverson) cross over, then I wanted the Tim Hardaway cross over. Then I had the KJ (Kevin Johnson), which was just go by everybody with quickness. I put them all together.”
This was Irving’s second Procamp in the West Shore area. Last year’s was hosted at Westlake High. “This is definitely more special,” said Irving of his day at Avon Lake High. “Being drafted last year, Cleveland kind of knew me but they really had no idea. This year, winning rookie of the year and bringing it back to the city is a great opportunity. To have this camp and to give back to the community is definitely a big deal.”
Irving still sported a cast on the right hand he injured in summer league play this year. “I just fractured a bone in there and had surgery. I’m just rehabbing it right now. I’ll be back on the court by Sept. 1,” he said.
One reporter asked if the injury has made him a better player with his left hand now. “My left hand was lethal before – it is even more lethal now,” smiled Irving.
He said incoming rookies will be in for a shock when Cavs head coach Byron Scott opens preseason camp in a few weeks. “Summer league games went well,” said Irving. “It will be interesting coming to training camp. Who’s in the best physical condition as we get ready for Coach Scott, or as we call it, Camp Scott. All the warnings don’t really amount to anything until you actually are in Camp Scott – you just have to deal with it. He’s a hard-nosed coach, but he’s just trying to get the best out of you.”