Campers learn from two Wilkins’|Damien, father Gerald, on hand Thursday

Published 2:59 am Friday, June 19, 2009

Sports Editor

Participants in this year’s Damien Wilkins’ basketball camp were in for a treat Thursday.
Not only did the campers get instructions from Wilkins, a five-year NBA veteran who plays for the Oklahoma City Thunder, but Gerald Wilkins, Damien’s father and a former NBA star, was also on hand to lend his support. Campers spent the afternoon going over drills, learning proper techniques and even playing some five-on-five.
“I just want them to have fun,” Damien Wilkins said about the campers. “I’m sure some kids come here with stress on their minds. Things may or not may not be going well at school or at home or whatever the case may be, because I’ve been in their shoes before.
“I just want them to come in and have fun. That’s my only goal.”
For Jabari Ashe, who will attend P.S. Jones next year, the 11-year-old was excited about learning from a couple of NBA stars.
“I want to learn how to get better and learn how to dribble better,” Ashe said. “This is wonderful because I’ve never seen an NBA player before. I want to grow up and be an NBA player.”
Ashe was just one of several youngsters to learn various skills at Thursday’s camp.
Gerald Wilkins, who played seven seasons with the New York Knicks along with making stops in Cleveland, Orlando and Vancouver, looked like he could still play the game while instructing the campers. He spent a majority of the practice running the show, demonstrating skills and giving advice.
“I want to be a player developer,” Gerald Wilkins said. “I want to eventually work my way into coaching.
“I’m happy to be here. This is a great town and I’m happy to be here with my son this weekend.”
Francis Williams, back for the second year in a row, provided guidance during the day-long event. Williams, a play-by-play man and color analyst for college basketball games, was a big hit with the campers last year.
“I really enjoy coming back here, because I grew up in a city similar to this in Oklahoma,” Williams said. “There are resources that you have in a larger city whereas, a lot of times in a smaller city you don’t necessarily have them. To be able to come here and share some of those resources with these kids, it brings a lot of joy to me. I know it does for Damien as well.
“We’re just trying to get our footing. It’s a tough economic time, so to be able to come back here, even if it’s just for a couple of days, is better than not doing anything.”
Williams said he wants to the participants to leave the camp with a positive attitude.
“The goal is motivation,” Williams said. “We want to motivate the kids. The kids have to realize that they have to be solid academically, first and foremost. They have to be good citizens.”
After the first of two camps, Williams was pleased with the attitude.
“The kids have been great,” Williams said. “To see the repeat campers from last year, and the excitement they have, makes it all worthwhile.”
Damien Wilkins, who made an underhanded, three-quarters length swish during camp, smiled nearly as much as the kids.