By Jeff Lund
Arizona Summer Wildcat
Wednesday July 17, 2002
ROSTBURG, Md. ÷ It seems that when one is on the outside looking in, basketball players rarely seem to have their priorities straight, or at least the ones that do arenāt worth writing about. People like scandal and that means players like Allen Iverson, Anthony Mason and Shawn Kemp seem to get most of the press and most of the attention from the fans.
When aspiring basketball players are young, their heroes are the players of that generation. Whether it be a good thing or a bad thing the young players try to emulate their exciting moves, wear their clothing and shoes, and make the big plays like they do.
For high school players, only a limited few are able to play in college.
Those that shed their school colors for the last time at 18 think back to the camps they went to and how little time and sacrifice they really put into bettering themselves. I know because I was one of them.
For people like me, living in the past becomes a daily routine.
The summer leagues and adult leagues are all that remain for us, who will never get the chance to play in front of millions of people.
Once upon a time, everyone had a chance.
As I walked from gym to gym on the campus of Frostburg State University coaching and teaching young kids from all over the United States at Coach Morgan Woottenās Basketball Camp, I realized that there is still purity in the game often masked by greed, money and tattoos.
Parents put their kids in our hands to instill knowledge over a five-day period.
The parents send their kids here because they love them. The kids go because they love the game.
They are paying to play, not getting paid to play. The cost didnāt matter, the venue did.
Unfortunately, the purity is not staying long in these kids and is something no coach can teach a player.
For example, as Maryland guard Steve Blake arrived to speak in front of the 600 kids at the camp, every young face looked in awe as Blake simply shot around and did very little but prove he wasnāt an ignorant basketball player.
When he was done speaking many of the kids lined up outside to get Blakeās autograph.
In the process, these same kids passed right by Hall of Famer Wootten ÷ the director of the camp. Wootten is a man with over 1,200 career high school victories and a winning percentage of over .800.
The kids had a once in a lifetime opportunity to talk and learn from a high school basketball guru.
I guess that doesnāt mean much to 15-year olds because they saw Blake hoist the National Championship trophy above his head in April.
Those kids might be a little disappointed when Wootten passes on, and Blake is having his illustrious careeröin the NBA developmental league.
Iām sure the shirts and papers Blake signed will alone be worth enough to support a nice lifestyle living by the Los Betos on Park and Speedway.
It is easy for me ÷ an accepting member of the never-will-Bās ÷ to wish that players that excel at the game I love would have everything together and for more of the sports followers to recognize the true heart and soul of the game and embrace it to keep the integrity of the game intact.
I suppose many of them do. Players like Shane Battier, John Stockton and ... well I am sitting here with a fellow coach and it seems to be very difficult to come up with many because we donāt hear about them often.
People like Wootten tend to get buried and forgotten underneath scandal, attitude, and police evidence.