The move caught the eye of the Charlotte Bobcats‘ Juwan Howard.
A youth basketball player, one of several hundred in Howard‘s annual summer basketball camp in Chicago, dribbled quickly to the outside perimeter, then inside, and bounced the ball off the glass and into the basket.
Howard, watching from the sidelines, ran up to the elementary school student and yelled, “Hey, great shot!”
Thirty minutes before that, Howard walked around a classroom filled with computers at Moody Bible College‘s Solheim Center, chatting with a female basketball camper about the computer project she was working on. And thirty minutes before that, Howard was posing for pictures with his campers.
For Howard, a Chicago Vocational High School graduate who grew up on the tough streets of Chicago‘s South Side, the camp marks a coming home party.
“I never had a chance to meet an NBA professional basketball player,” Howard said about his childhood. “I want to let these kids know that I really care about them. … I’m going to be here every day, all day.”
The popular camp was held this week. There are no fees and campers can only gain entrance to the camp by reading books, a part of the Chicago Public Schools‘ reading initiative at inner-city elementary schools.
Howard’s web site, www.juwanhoward.com, includes Juwan’s Online Book Club and Juwan’s Book Club Blog.
“You have to earn your right to come here,“ Howard said. “It’s an incentive. Whoever reads the most books in your class, out of 20 schools in the Chicago area, you are rewarded to come here to basketball camp.”
“This program blends the complementary concepts of learning and athletic achievement through personal accounts from accomplished sports personalities. It is an important and appropriate message, and one we believe our students can embrace,“ said Ron Huberman, Chicago Public Schools CEO.
Camp sponsors include the Juwan Howard Foundation, CPS, Jordan Brand, Dell Computers, EMI Music, Vitamin Water and the National Basketball Association, all of which help Howard maintain the camp with a free admission.
“A lot of these kids can’t afford to buy a pair of shorts. Mom and dad may not have a job,“ Howard said.
The camp itself brings back high school memories for Howard. His former high school coach at Chicago Vocational (“a mentor,” Howard says), Richard Cook, is a camp coach. So are Hales Franciscan head coach Gary London and Harper head coach Narvell Newsome, among others. Harlan head coach Irvin Bryant has led and helped recruit the camp’s coaches since it began nine years ago.
“This is a great camp,” Bryant said.
Howard can stand on one of the three basketball courts and point to coaches he once played against while in high school at Chicago Vocational.
“We put together a list of coaches that we wanted to be a part of this camp, to help teach these kids, and we think we have the best in the city,” Howard said. “We have a great staff.”
Howard’s hoops career has taken him to the University of Michigan as a member of UM’s Fab Five recruiting class, then to the NBA beginning in 1994. He is looked at with great respect when he comes home. Especially to those coaches who grew up in the inner city and now coach inner-city kids.
“He is an example of what a real man should be about. He’s just been a good role model,” London said. “It’s a testament to what type of citizen he is. He’s been in the NBA 14 years, you never hear of any trouble with him.”
And if there was trouble, Howard need only think of his grandmother. That’s who kept him on the right path during his childhood on the South Side, an area still known for stabbings and shootings involving gangs. In fact, the violence became so bad this past winter that late in the basketball season, fans were barred from attending city basketball games without prior permission from athletic directors.
“Growing up in an area like that, it taught me mental toughness. It wasn’t easy,” Howard said. “I had a few bumps along the road, too, but it taught me. I learned my lesson and I learned it through my grandmother. She scolded me, maybe gave me a few spanks on the behind with the belt, but I look back on it -- she kept me safe. I owe a lot to her.”
Those deep inner-city roots are evident at Howard’s camp. Every camper attends a “life skills” class daily. Walk into that class, and you’ll hear a teacher asking, “What happens if someone makes you angry?”
“We want to teach them,“ Howard said. “Instill in them how to stay away from the negativity, the gangs, the drugs, how to take care of your body by eating right, nutrition and all that.”
In addition to classes, each camper gets to do a video broadcast of the basketball being played. A video camera and broadcasting station are situated on a balcony just above the courts. In an adjoining room, the campers can watch the video and edit it. Add all of this together, and it is the basketball camp Howard envisioned years ago.
“I had all these great ideas. I was just trying to find a way to put it together, and make things work to help the kids here in the inner city,” Howard said. “Let’s start it with a basketball camp. Not just teach the kids about basketball … we’re going to stress education. Education is the most important component that will help you be successful in life.”
But there are plenty of hoops. Coaches run the kids through dribbling drills, layups and rebounding exercises. But when the basketball games begin, those coaches turn into, er, coaches. Shouts of defense and passing echo through the gym. Howard bounces from court to court, encouraging the campers, shaking hands, shouting out after a good play. The camp touches Howard’s heart.
“It does, it’s a blessing.,“ he said. “And I thank God for giving me the opportunity, bless me with the chance to reach out and help less fortunate families through my foundation and my camp is a testament to that.”
Football: Bolingbrook hosts passing jamboree
High school football is heating up the next couple of weeks with a pair of traditional events.
Bolingbrook High School will be host to its annual 7-on-7 Raider Passing Jamboree Saturday.
“There’ll be 48 teams here. We’re going to be rocking,“ Bolingbrook head coach John Ivlow said.
For many teams, the Bolingbrook jamboree is the final summer workout before actual practices for the new season begin Aug. 12.
The jamboree is a day-long event with action taking place on 10 fields simultaneously. Most of the participating schools are from the Chicago area, but out-of-state schools include Cedar Rapids (Iowa) Washington.
More Football: Peoria to host all-star game
On July 25, the 35th annual Illinois Coaches Association Shrine All-Star Football Game will be held at Peoria Stadium.
The game will feature 80 players from schools statewide, split into west and east squads. Players include wide receiver John Lantz of Class 6A state champ Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin and defensive end Theo Odom of Glenbard West.
Darrell Crouch of Washington High School is the west coach; Clifton Central’s Brian Spooner will coach the east. Practices for the Shrine teams begin Tuesday. Kickoff is 6:30 p.m. July 25. Admission: $10. For complete rosters, go t www.icacoach.org.
Track: Glenbrook South sprinter wins world gold
Colin Hepburn of Glenbrook South won gold at the IAAF World Youth Championships on July 12 in Bressanone, Italy, as he ran the lead leg on Team USA’s sprint medley relay.
The relay team won the event in a World Youth-record 1 minute, 50.33 seconds, breaking a record set by a youth team from Poland in 2001.
Hepburn, a senior, won the Illinois Class 3A 100-meter dash title last month with a time of 10.5 seconds.
Hepburn’s teammates on the relay team were Keenan Brock of Birmingham, Ala., Dedric Dukes of Miami and Joshua Mance of Pomona, Calif. Team USA won six gold medals.
Basketball: Illinois recruit ponders high school transfer
Crandall Head, a senior who has verbaled to Illinois, may transfer from Crane Technical to Rich South High School, according to the Sun-Times News Group.
A 6-foot-3 guard, Head attended Rich South as a freshman and sophomore, but transferred to Crane last year. He is a brother of Houston Rockets guard Luther Head, a former Illinois star.
Paul Bowker covers the Chicago area for MaxPreps. He may be reached at email@example.com.