2013 Year in Review. August. Allen shows classy touch at camp.
Allen shows classy touch at camp
WEST HARTFORD – Ray Allen sure has a nice touch. Okay, before you start thinking, hey Wilson tell us something we don’t know, this isn’t about the sweetest shooting stroke this side of Jupiter, Saturn and all the other celestial bodies.
The Miami Heat star and UConn legend, Allen is arguably the greatest shooter in NBA history. Not an earth-shattering observation. After all the guy has dropped in more long range bombs than a B-52 and more three-pointers than anybody in NBA history.
This is all about the way he runs his basketball camp and as you might expect he runs it with Ray Allen class.
Tim Gaffney and I took a ride to Allen’s basketball camp at Hall High School in West Hartford Sunday morning. The idea that it was Allen’s camp piqued our interest as did the idea that there were a host of local coaches and athletes working the camp.
Thomaston High boys and girls basketball coaches Gary Franklin and Bob McMahon were there along with Larry Decker who is heavily involved in Thomaston’s recreation basketball program (and the Berkshire League’s leading scorer in 1986 in you need more).
Also on hand helping out coaching and working as assistants were former Thomaston players Brittany Brandt and Laura Miller along with current Golden Bear Brian Butkevicius. Litchfield’s Spencer Persechino was also working as an assistant.
The first thing you noticed in the Hall High gym after the almost 200 energetic participants is Allen himself. Don’t underestimate that detail.
When it comes to basketball camps, it is pretty common fare for a big name to sponsor a camp, show up for the first day and never be seen again. Not in Ray Allen’s world.
Allen’s camp was two days and he showed up both days and get this – he stayed all day and actually worked the camp. Allen showed up in basketball gear and was in constant motion from one gym to the other gym.
He stopped at each session, watched and gave some advice. He participated in some drills like knockout in which you shoot to knock an opponent out. He spoke to the kids not at them or down to them.
Ray Allen was involved big-time.
“He’s hands on with all the kids and parents. I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Decker who was working the camp for his second year. “Station to station he was there. It is something the kids won’t forget.”
Jim Stoll, the founder of Pro-Camp which sponsored the camp couldn’t rave enough about Allen and Stoll runs 72 camps with all sorts of stars including Carmelo Anthony of the New York Knicks. He told a rapt audience Sunday Ray was absolutely the best to work with hands down.
“Ray is incredible, he is a camp director’s dream,” said Stoll. “The guy is here before the camp starts and stays after it is over. It speaks to who he is. His wife, Shannon, is here all the time, too. It is refreshing.”
Allen is always a 10-time All-Star here and sticks out with wiry 6-foot-5 frame and his greyhound-like physique. He looks like he could play another 10 years belying his birth certificate which says he is 38. He commands respect and in some cases adulation from the players and multitude of parents that hang around to watch.
But he is also one of the gang here, sitting on the floor with the kids, both young and hold, standing with them, talking with them, instructing them, laughing with them. He is Ray Allen, many parts future Hall of Famer and many parts one of the gang.
Franklin and McMahon were alerted about the camp last year from former Housatonic coach Parker Strong, who now coaches the East Hampton High boys team. They e-mailed the camp director and have passed the word on to their former players who want to work as aides. The camp is staffed by state coaches and high school and college players.
Brian Butkevicius was pretty darn happy to be where he was this weekend.
“Ray is a good guy, he is all-around and comes to each station,” said Butkevicius.
And what has Butkevicius taken out of the camp?
“In Ray’s speech, he talked about following the dream,” said Butkevicius.
Of course Brian didn’t show Allen his Duke shirt or mention his love of the Blue Devils. Another day for that one.
Allen personally gave out the end of camp awards. He talked to the participants and left them with this message.
“See my sneakers, I get hundreds of pairs for free,” Allen said. “But, it is not about the sneakers I am wearing, it is about how I got in them.”
It was about working hard. And nobody worked this camp harder than Ray Allen.
We left and Allen was still there – eating lunch with a select group of kids. Allen not only lent his game and name to the camp. He put his time in from beginning to end.
Ray’s got a great touch. In more ways than one.