Special Father’s Day for Wilkins’|Gerald helps Damien during basketball camps

Published 3:16 am Sunday, June 21, 2009

Sports Editor

It was difficult to determine who was beaming with more pride — the father or the son.
Damien Wilkins, a Washington native and five-year NBA veteran, has returned home in each of the last five years to put on a “Fun Day” for the community. He’s also hosted a basketball camp the last three years.
This weekend’s camp and “Fun Day” was extra special to Damien Wilkins because his father, 15-year NBA veteran Gerald Wilkins, was on hand to watch and help out. It just so happens that the NBA-duo got to spend some quality time together on Father’s Day.
"It means a lot," Damien Wilkins said. "Two fathers get to spend some time together. I'm a new father and he's always been mine.
"He gets to see what I'm doing down here because he really hasn't been able to, so now he gets to see the influence that I have on the community and the influence that the community has on me. It's important to me for him to be here."
Gerald Wilkins, who ran several drills during the basketball camp, held Thursday and Friday at P.S. Jones Middle School, was excited about the whole weekend.
"It's coming on a good weekend since it's Father's Day weekend," Gerald Wilkins said. "I get a chance to come down here and visit with him and see how he handles his business.
"He's doing a good job of that. I know this event has been going on for the last four years, and it continues to get better."
Damien Wilkins, who is playing with the Oklahoma City Thunder, said the only way this weekend could have been better is if his son, Jayden, were able to attend. Unfortunately, little Jayden became ill and was forced to stay at home.
"I only wish that my son was able to be here," Damien Wilkins said. "That would make it better, but we'll go on."
Dealing with a sick child is just one of the many things involved with parenthood.
"He has a long way to go," Gerald Wilkins said about his son’s own fatherhood. "You have to be patient. He had to take (Jayden) to the hospital on the fly and I said, 'welcome to fatherhood.' It's about patience and endurance.
"Early on, I think he's doing a very good job."
Along with parental advice, Gerald Wilkins can also offer his tips and thoughts about playing in the NBA. He spent 15 years playing in the league, including seven with the New York Knicks.
While Damien Wilkins is going on his sixth year playing in the NBA, he played in just half of his team’s games last year and didn’t get the minutes he’s used to playing each night.
"It comes down to performance," Gerald Wilkins said. "That's what I try to teach him. The NBA is a business; it's an entertainment industry as well as a sports venue.
"You have to bring your 'A' game every night, you have to compete and there are going to be days where your team isn't going to win games or the franchise is moving to a different city. You have to understand the business of basketball, as well as keeping your game tight."
Damien Wilkins said he’s already learned plenty from his father.
"You have to stay true to yourself," Damien Wilkins said. "You try to raise your children with character. If I can instill confidence in them, and instill character in them, they'll be fine no matter what they do."
Gerald Wilkins is hoping his son can have the same long career he did. While he played for a handful of teams, his favorite was playing for the Knicks.
"New York really made me what I am today," Gerald Wilkins said. "I played seven years in New York, and then went to play in Cleveland for four years. Both those franchises were great franchises. I also played one year in Vancouver. I had a great time in the NBA.
"I also had a great time in Orlando, playing with Penny Hardaway, but the one that stands out the most is New York. To play with Patrick Ewing, John Starks, Charles Oakley and all those guys, and playing under the biggest stage in the world at Madison Square Garden, was great."
Playing in an NBA arena anywhere is nice, but both father and son said returning home is even better.
"It's always nice to come home," Gerald Wilkins said. "This is where my roots are; I was born here. I did spend my ninth grade year and my junior year here in Washington.
"It's always nice to see where you grew up, and the bloodlines. My brother, Dominique (an NBA Hall-of-Famer), my cousins, aunts and uncles and everybody, it's always nice to come back to see them."
Damien Wilkins echoes those same sentiments.
“It’s always good to get home, but I should get home more,” Damien Wilkins said. “I think the people of Washington deserve that. It should be more than just seeing my face one weekend in June.”
An NBA star who never forgets from where he came.
Like father, like son.