The Maine Red Claws, NBA Development League affiliate of the Boston Celtics, hosted their annual summer basketball camp From July 28 through August 1. The camp, held at the Portland Exposition Building, offers kids age 7-14 a chance to develop their skills under the instruction of NBA players and officials, coaches and college basketball players in a week-long camp that focuses on drills, scrimmages and basketball philosophy both on and off the court.
This year, former Red Claw Chris Babb took to the hardwood to offer his expert advice to the children. Babb, who played for Maine during the 2013-14 season received an NBA call-up to the Boston Celtics on February 28, 2014 and signed a multi-year contract with the team upon completion of his second ten-day contract on March 21st.
In 33 games with the Red Claws, Babb averaged 12 points, 6.1 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.1 steals per game. In 14 games with the Celtics, Babb scored 22 points while securing 17 rebounds.
Alongside Babb, former Red Claw Eugene Spates, who averaged 6.2 points and 3.5 rebounds with Maine during the 2010-11 season, returned to the basketball camp and summer clinic series to share his knowledge with new campers and old friends.
"It's fun to come out here because the kids all remember me," Spates said of his time at the camp. "The kids enjoy when I come back, they want me to come back."
This was made obvious by the large crowd of kids waiting to get an autograph from Spates while they waited for their parents to pick them up at the end of the day, or in some cases while they made their parents wait.
"I feel like I'm obligated to come back," he added, "so I'll come back as long as I'm welcome."
Players can teach the skills of the game by example, but this camp is about much more than skills and mechanics. Coaches, like Red Claws Player Development Coach James Moran were on hand to teach kids the other important aspects of the game.
"For me it's fun to come back and try to teach kids the little things," Moran said, "that might help them become college basketball players or maybe high school basketball players."
Moran attributed this desire to give back as a camp counselor to his own experience at basketball camps growing up, and the lessons he learned that helped him earn a roster spot at William and Mary, where he scored 1,324 career points for the Tribe before he earned a professional basketball contract from Gran Canaria of the Spanish Top Division.
"Being around these kids at camp, I remember going to these camps as kids, and how impactful the counselors were on my life and the things I would learn from them."
In addition to basketball skills and philosophy, Moran felt that it was important to impart life lessons on the children he was coaching.
"I want to help them learn a few things, not just about the game, but also teamwork, sportsmanship, how to lose with dignity and how to win with dignity." Moran sees these principles to be universal. "Those are important life lessons that these kids can translate off the court, which is more important than what goes on on the court."
The Red Claws camp came to a close on Friday, but the community outreach isn't over for the team or for their former players. Spates will be joined by the NBA Development League's 2013-14 Most Improved Player, Frank Gaines for a series of four hour summer skills clinics.
8/4/14- Hampden, ME at the Skehan Recreation Center
8/5/14- Waterville, ME at the Alfond Youth Center
8/6/14- Auburn, ME at Central Maine Community College
8/7/14- South Portland, ME at the South Portland Recreation Center.
All clinics begin at 10:00 am and run through 2:00 pm