San Antonio Spurs forward Danny Green said he saw something of himself as he looked at the young basketball players running drills at the Team Green Basketball Camp in the Floral Park Memorial High School gym earlier this week.
“I came from the same place they came from. Anything’s possible if you work at it,” said Green, a graduate of St. Mary’s High School in Manhasset.
Surrounded by 75 mostly grade-school age kids in the sweltering gym, Green recalled attending summer basketball camps when he first showed some talent at 10 or 11 years old.
“I was decent but I liked the game a lot. My dad liked the game too. He put the ball in my hands,” he said. “Things happened. It was great fun.”
Green’s father, Danny Sr., actually started the summer basketball camp several years ago on the family’s home ground in North Babylon.
The younger Green, who gained notoriety for his strong play in the Spurs’ loss to the Miami Heat in this year’s NBA championship series, has been involved in the camps for the past two years and the roster of the week-long camps this summer include two in North Babylon and one in Central Islip.
Although the locations change, the objective remains the same.
“It’s always great to give back to the community and give kids an opportunity to learn. It’s another option for what they want to do with their life and also a chance to interact with me,” Green said smiling.
Giving kids sound basketball skills is the overriding goal of the Team Green camps. Proceeds from the $250 or $300 fees they charge for each player in each camp are donated to the Long Island non-profit “Remember Our Youth” foundation, which in turn gives scholarships for some young players to attend the Team Green camps, the elder Green said.
Floral Park resident Joe Lynch, who coaches in local youth leagues, made the connection with the Greens to bring the camp to Floral Park. He said the camp mainly drew players from Floral Park, New Hyde Park, Manhasset and Queens.
Green said he doesn’t typically get serious basketball questions from the kids. Most of the questions are along the lines of how tall he is, whether he can dunk and, naturally, how does he shoot those long jump shots that have become his NBA trademark.
Green said he knows that some kids are in camp to have fun or because their parents want to get them out of the house. But he knows that some of them have real talent that can be developed, including promising high school players. And he has a few serious messages he tries to convey to them.
“I tell them I was once eight or nine years old, sitting in the same position in camp. The things I did at camp separated me from the others,” Green said. “They’re can be many opportunities, whatever it is, whatever you want to do or be in life. You just have to work really hard at it.”
Maintaining a work ethic, particularly in school, is another part of his message.
“It’s very hard to be successful without school,” Green said.
Green said Tim Cluess, his basketball coach at St. Mary’s High School, drilled that work ethic into him and is a “big reason” for his success.
“He formed me into those habits. He instilled the work ethic into me. He’s the reason I strived to do better and the reason I know I could do better,” he said. “He kind of made me a perfectionist.”
He said Cluess also gave him confidence in all aspects of his game, including shooting.
For Danny Green Sr., helping kids build court skills at the basketball camps reminds him of coaching his eldest son long before he helped win a championship at the University of North Carolina or played for the Spurs.
“It’s just teaching it all over again,” the elder Green said. “It’s sticking to the fundamentals that most kids don’t work on nowadays.”
He said he is also teaching his two younger sons, eight-year-old Dante - who was at the Floral Park camp - and Devante, 16, who he said both have NBA dreams.
One of the players attending the camp, third grader Luca Turcinovic, said he plays on a team at the Notre Dame School in New Hyde Park and was in camp to work on his offensive skills, particularly his shooting.
Asked about what it was like to meet Danny Green, the young player immediately became a young fan.
“Oh my God, it’s so cool. I watch almost all his games,” Luca said.
Luca said he’s looking forward to the Spurs’ next season. Green said he’s looking forward to it too.