The kids at the Camana Bay Basketball Camp got a giant lift from a world-class player Friday, when seven-foot center Cody Zeller dropped by the gym at the Arts and Recreation Center.
Zeller, the No. 4 overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft, is gearing up for his fifth season with the Charlotte Hornets, but he spent Friday encouraging Cayman kids to attack the game with all their heart.
“It’s a lot of fun,” said Zeller of assisting in camp. “Like I told these campers, ‘It’s cool for me because I was in similar camps growing up.’ They’re in the same shoes. It’s a good coaching staff here. Hopefully I can give back a little bit. And you never know. One of these kids might end up where I’m at.”
The camp had more than 90 kids this year playing in the five-day clinic, and they were split between the seven-to-12 and the 12-to-17 age brackets. Patrick Crarey II, the head coach at Washington Adventist University, served as the head basketball coach and ran the kids through their paces.
Crarey stressed responsibility, obedience, respect, cooperation and a number of other interpersonal skills along with the fundamentals of the game. And when the camp was done, he shook each of the campers’ hands and gave out awards to a few of the most dedicated and accomplished players.
“The kids are definitely getting better, but we’re always about character first,” said Crarey of his core philosophy. “We work on their character first and their basketball skills second. We can only impact their basketball skills so much in five days. We think we can impact their character for a long time.”
Crarey, who played for La Sierra University in California, has been part of the Camana Bay camp for six of its nine seasons. On Friday, after awarding brand new basketballs to the male and female MVPs in the youth bracket, Crarey looked at an incredulous camper and imparted one last nugget of wisdom.
“When you’re good and you listen,” he said, “Good things happen to you.”
Crarey was assisted by Fred Lymas (a fellow coach at Washington Adventist), Trey Griseck (a former player at St. Leo University), David Butler (a former player at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University) and Josh Adeyeye (who played college ball at Jacksonville University and played professionally in Germany last year).
Zeller, who was a member of the NBA’s All-Rookie Second Team in 2014, could bear witness to some of those same lessons. The 24-year-old was a standout at Indiana University before coming to the NBA, and he’s had the good fortune to play for the team owned by Hall-of-Famer Michael Jordan.
“He doesn’t play a whole lot any more, but he’s around,” said Zeller of the alltime great. “He’ll sit at the end of our bench during games. He’s around enough, but he doesn’t want to be too hands-on. He lets the coaching staff coach the team. It’s unbelievable to have him around and be able to pick his brain.”
Zeller is part of a fine tradition of NBA players who have flown in for the Camana Bay Basketball Camp, a list that includes Vince Carter, Jameer Nelson, Al-Farouq Aminu and Tobias Harris, among others.
The former Hoosier would just be working out in Charlotte and getting ready for the season if he were not in Cayman, and he said the Hornets will begin their training camp in October. This week has been a nice diversion for Zeller, who flew in Monday and got a chance to enjoy Seven Mile Beach.
Zeller, a native of Washington, Indiana, has two brothers – Luke and Tyler – that have played in the NBA, and he said it’s been a great challenge playing against the world’s best players. A few times a year, though, he gets to face off against his brother, and then it’s like they are both just kids again.
“Tyler played for the Boston Celtics this past year, so we’ve played against each other at least three or four times each year for my four years in the league,” said Cody of facing his brother. “It’s always weird playing against him, but I think I have the scouting report down for that game, at least.”