Wilkins basketball camp another slam dunk|Two-day camp wraps up with games, awards

Published 3:00 am Friday, June 19, 2009

Sports Editor

Some kids ran out of the gym. Some walked. Others limped.
But each had a smile on his or her face, and that’s what mattered most to Damien Wilkins. The Washington native and five-year NBA veteran hosted his annual basketball camp at P.S. Jones Middle School, which wrapped up Friday afternoon.
“Overall, I think it went well,” Wilkins said. “I think the kids had a lot of fun. The first day was a lot of instruction and the second day was more about playing.”
One of the biggest smiles belonged to Holt McKeithan, who was crowned champion in a “knock-out” shooting competition to end the first camp session. The 11-year-old calmly sank a free throw to beat his final competitor.
“It felt good,” McKeithan said. “I was pretty nervous because he’s a lot older than me, so I really wasn’t expecting to win.”
McKeithan, who threw up his arms in celebration after making the winning basket, was mobbed by “teammates” who didn’t have to run drills because of him. It was just one part of a special basketball camp for McKeithan.
“I liked the knock-out game the best,” he said. “I like shooting. The camp really helped me get better.”
The camp wasn’t just about fun. The participants, like rising eighth-grader Corshema Blount, learned plenty during the two-day event.
“I learned fundamentals,” Blount, 13, said. “I’ve been coming here for three years and the camp helps me out a lot.
“The best part is seeing Damien.”
In between camp sessions, Gerald Wilkins, a 15-year NBA veteran and the father of Damien, ran cousins Cor-J Cox and T.J. Slade through a series of drills. Cox, a former Washington Pam Pack star who played basketball last year at Olney Central College in Illinois, and Slade, a former standout at Northside High School, both have high basketball aspirations.
The two said they appreciated the help from Gerald and Damien Wilkins.
“It feels great,” Cox said. “I’m learning about what they had to go through to make it (to the NBA). I liked the workout and I hope they can keep helping me.”
What will it take Cox to get into Damien Wilkins’ shoes — being a part of an NBA team?
“Hard work, dedication and God,” Cox said. “I would love to play where Damien played in college, which is Georgia, but I’ll go anywhere God wants me to go.”
Slade, like Cox, absorbed as much information as he could from the father-son NBA duo.
“From what they were showing us, you really have to work hard,” Slade said. “You have to put a lot of work into it.
“It was exciting to have their help. They’ve been there (in the NBA) so I’m going to take their advice and go with it.”
For Damien Wilkins, he said it was special to watch his father in action.
“It was exciting to see my dad out there getting involved with the camp,” Wilkins said. “I know that meant a lot to him, and it certainly meant a lot to me.”
Participants went through some grueling five-on-five games to conclude the camp.
“I wish we could have done it longer,” Wilkins said. “We’ll work towards that next year.”