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When he was a kid, Iman Shumpert didn't attend basketball camps.
"My father never put me into camps," Shumpert said. "He felt I wasn't going to get better at some of the camps other guys were attending. Those camps cost a lot of money for guys not to be going hard."
Last weekend the former OPRF High School hoops star-turned promising New York Knicks guard came home to finally attend a hoops camp — his own.
The Shumpert Youth Basketball Camp was held at OPRF for fifth through 10th grade boys and girls. While the camp was fun-filled with assorted individual and team drills, games and instruction, Shumpert's primary purpose was to instill within the campers a heavily influenced hometown mindset about the game of basketball.
"I'm trying to teach these kids about having a Huskie Attitude." Shumpert said. "That's our mascot at Oak Park-River Forest, and a Huskie mindset is to go hard every play. I purposely stacked my camp counselors with my high school teammates because I know they are going to help the campers be ultra-competitive. I love to compete and I want to share that competitive nature and love for the game with these kids."
With three daily sessions from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., campers honed their skills at ball handling, shooting and defense stations, along with three-man drills and a spirited 5-on-5 tournament under the watchful observation of Shumpert and a veritable who's who of recent OPRF basketball alumni and coaches. Camp Director Quinn Peterson, current OPRF head boys basketball coach Matt Maloney, former head boys basketball coach Al Allen and former OPRF players Phil Gary, Adam Taylor, Lamont Sanders and Gabe Levin were all on hand to offer their expertise and knowledge of the game.
While the camp featured plenty of intense basketball competition/instruction, plenty of fun for the campers was also on the agenda. Knicks forward Amare Stoudemire made a surprise cameo appearance on Friday, the campers received free gear, and even engaged Shumpert in a lively Q & A session.
"One kid asked me if I've hung out with [Knicks guard] Jeremy Lin," Shumpert said with a laugh. "Of course, I have hung out with Jeremy as much as you can. Man, he's a rock star. He's like Michael Jackson and I'm the other guy, Tito [Jackson]."
Chase Robinson, an 11-year-old camper, cherished every moment rubbing elbows with an NBA star like Shumpert.
"It's fun to learn from professional players like Iman and Stoudemire," said Robinson. "LeBron James is my favorite player, but Iman is a great player, too. He plays hard and never gives up on defense."
Shumpert's candor resonated with the campers as well, most notably 15-year old James Gerathey of Oak Park.
"Shumpert seems like an honest guy," Gerathey said. "He really tried not to be like an archetype like some NBA players telling us to stay in school and stay away from drugs. He really told us what he thinks and I liked that a lot."
The camp also allowed a reunion of sorts for the staff, who shared a collective trip down memory lane via Linden Avenue.
"Some of OPRF's finest from the last seven or eight years are involved with this camp," said OPRF head basketball coach Matt Maloney. "It was great for all the guys to hang out, joke around and reminisce about their high school days. For me, it was a reminder of what makes this group so special."
When he played at OPRF, the 6-foot-5, 220-pound Shumpert guided the Huskies to three-straight conference titles and was selected as a McDonald's All-American. Previously, Shumpert attended Gwendolyn Brooks Middle School, where he was teammates with current Philadelphia 76ers guard Evan Turner in eighth grade.
While in town, Shumpert also spent some time with his parents, Odis and LaTanya, along with his siblings.
"People ask me how do you feel about your son making it to the NBA," Odis Shumpert said. "It's like winning the lottery when you consider the odds of how few players actually make it. But, Iman's success is earned, rooted in hard work, staying grounded and having self-confidence."
The 21-year-old returned to New York on Sunday to run his second/final camp of the summer in White Plains, N.Y. He'll also continue rehab on his injured left knee. Shumpert's busy itinerary also included celebrating his birthday this week (June 26).
According to Maloney, Shumpert headlines the list of former Huskies making a positive impact in people's lives.
"I always get asked by people what was Iman like in high school," Maloney added. "He was an honor roll student. Iman gave up his study hall to work with special needs kids during their PE class. He was giving back to his community even when he was in high school."
Prior to the three-day camp, Shumpert visited Opportunity Knocks, an Oak Park-based organization designed to help people with developmental disabilities receive support and services. Opportunity Knocks is headed up by Executive Director Mike Carmody, who coached Shumpert in high school.
"I told the kids at my basketball camp to always face adversity with a positive attitude," said Shumpert. "When I visited with the people [at Opportunity Knocks], some of them were in wheelchairs or limited in some ways. Yet, they carry a positive attitude and that encourages me to keep smiling."
After being drafted with the 17th pick by the Knicks, Shumpert enjoyed a stellar opening pro campaign, averaging 9.5 points per game and emerging as a premier defender en route NBA first-team All-Rookie recognition. Unfortunately, Shumpert tore the ACL and meniscus of his left knee during a postseason game against Miami.
Like everything in his life though, Shumpert has faced his most recent obstacle with the aforementioned "Huskie attitude."
"I'm just trying to keep good faith about [the injury]," Shumpert said. "I'm in a good place mentally with rehab. I trust my training staff 110 percent. The expectation is not about coming back anymore, I know I'll do that. The goal is to come back right into the swing of things, be in game shape trusting my legs, and ultimately be a better player than before."
For the youth who attended Shumpert's camp, chances are they left improved players as well, compliments of a hometown kid who hasn't forgotten where he came from.
"A lot of times people say Iman is from Chicago," Maloney said, "but he always corrects them saying, 'No, I'm from Oak Park.'"
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