Damien does it again

Published 6:15 am Monday, June 23, 2008

By Staff
Commentary by KEVIN TRAVIS, Sports Editor
During a break in action at his second annual basketball camp on Friday, Damien Wilkins scooped up a ball while standing just beyond mid-court. He glared at a basket inside the P.S. Jones Middle School gymnasium, then proceeded to bend down as if he were getting ready to bowl the ball.
Wilkins swung his arm back, then forward and the ball gently rolled off his fingertips. The ball seemed to float in air for a while, before finding its mark, dropping through the basket as the ball touched nothing but nylon.
That word, “impressive,” could describe the entire Wilkins’ weekend.
Wilkins and camp director, Francis Williams, did a spectacular job in running their one-day basketball camp. Over 100 lucky campers learned some fundamentals and new skills from Wilkins, an NBA star with the Seattle SuperSonics, and Williams, who has helped six of his pupils reach the NBA.
Each camper went home with a Dynamic Foundation/Damien Wilkins Basketball Camp T-shirt, a photo with Wilkins, a bellyful of pizza and some great memories.
After playing a little one-on-one against Eva Mackey, a P.S. Jones student who is a superstar in the making, I took a seat and just watched Wilkins interact with the campers. (By the way, Eva beat me. And if you happen to see a hip lying somewhere on the gym floor, please return it to the Daily News sports office.)
It didn’t matter if they were in high school or sixth grade, Wilkins gave each camper his undivided attention.
What impressed me even more than that half-court underhanded shot was Wilkins’ demeanor throughout the camp, and beyond. Even as most of the campers had raced out of the gym, one shy but determined camper asked Wilkins for a little extra help on layups.
Wilkins didn’t say, “maybe next year, kid.” He grabbed a ball and proceeded to go through the proper steps and follow-through for a layup. Not just once, but multiple times.
Wilkins was just as generous with his time during his Fourth Annual Fun Day event, held Saturday in the field across from the Boys &Girls Club — a place near and dear to Wilkins’ heart.
Along with providing food, beverages and entertainment for young and old, Wilkins helped judge a couple rousing and competitive musical chair games. And he did it all with a huge smile on his face.
His hand was probably tired Saturday evening after signing autograph after autograph.
Wilkins loves coming home each year. He said he can return to Washington and “just be Damien.”
He may be an NBA star, but he’ll never let that go to his head. He’s giving, generous and one of the kindest guys you’ll ever meet.
Washington is truly lucky to have a person like Wilkins representing the city.
And I feel truly lucky to be able to call Damien a friend.
Kevin Travis is the sports editor of the Washington Daily News. You may reach him at 940-4217, or by e-mail at Kevin@wdnweb.com.