A basketball camp at Jericho Road Church is all about giving back, says camp coordinator Harold “Lefty” Williams.
More than 60 boys and girls from Grades 4-12 attended the DARE 2 Dream Basketball Camp last month in the former Klitsa School gym, which has been well kept since the school closed several years ago.
Campers learned core basketball fundamentals such as ball handling, passing and shooting defense over the course of the week.
Williams structured the camp around six elements: mind, body, soul, education, accountability and enthusiasm.
“All of those things helped me become the player and the person that I am today,” Williams said.
“If you model those things then kids will buy in, especially if they know you care, and the more they care the more they want to know.”
Williams played for the Harlem Globetrotters as well as their perennial opponents, the Washington Generals. He also saw action with several pro teams in England and Japan.
Before that, he played for Jersey City University, where he was a standout player, and a graduate of the university’s business and communications programs.
Williams played competitive basketball since elementary school. During the school year he played basketball six days a week. “And seven days a week in the summer,” he said.
Williams coached the Alberni District Secondary School junior boys team this past season. He took stock of the hoops scene in Port Alberni and has been percolating some ideas about how to up its game.
One of those ideas is a basketball academy that would run year round.
The academy, which Williams would like to start in the fall of 2013, would run after school during the week and would teach fundamental basketball skills to young players.
Williams doesn’t foresee competing with other sports for players, observing that there are athletes who only want to play basketball.
“The most important thing I want to pass on is for players to enjoy the game, but to enjoy it the way it is supposed to be played,” he said.
Skills would only be part of the program he envisions. “Basketball is meant to be a family environment. Players can be like your brothers and sisters,” he said. “Not every team is like that, but most teams I’ve been a part of have.”
Another idea would see kids brought to the Alberni Valley from the United States to study and play basketball, the same way kids come to Port Alberni to play junior hockey and go to school.
It would be an opportunity for kids to escape the inner-city morass of drugs, crime and lack of opportunity.
“Give them a positive environment, make them work hard and give them goals,” he said. “Those that want out would think about it.”
The ideas require more thought, planning and discussion, he admits.
No stranger to camps, Williams went to several in the off-season while growing up in Jersey City.
He credits former New York Knicks point guard Stephon Marbury with helping him get into basketball camps.
“I’d be gone all summer long at camps. I worked hard night and day on offense and defense so that when I got to school I’d be ready,” Williams said.
“Everything I learned I try to pass on now.”
Port Alberni’s hoops past is a beacon to work towards and maybe one day eclipse, Williams said.
“Elmer Speidel is a member of our church and he often talks about how this used to be a big basketball town,” Williams said.
“If we can find a good core of kids and teach them how to play the right way then we can take it to the next level.”