When NBA star Nate Robinson was growing up, he spent as much time as possible with a basketball in his hands, attending as many workouts and camps and practices as he could.
Friday, Robinson helped train a new generation of budding ballers by hosting two three-hour basketball clinics at the Town of North Hempstead’s “Yes We Can” center in Westbury, in conjunction with Fundamental Sports Training, also based in Westbury.
Robinson, along with trainers from Fundamental Sports Training and Elite Youth Camps, which schedules clinics with professional athletes all throughout the country, put the young players through a series of drills to help improve their basic shooting, dribbling, passing and defensive skills to help ground their games in basketball fundamentals.
“Learning the fundamentals and getting better at the fundamentals are key as you go from elementary school to middle school, middle school to high school, high school to college and college to the pros,” Robinson said. “At each step of the way, you’re going to learn something new, but you’ve got to start with the fundamentals, so that’s why we go through all these drills and I show them the things I go through. Being an NBA player doesn’t happen overnight.”
The 5’9” Robinson, 29, signed a two-year, $4.1 million contract in July with the Denver Nuggets. He has played for the New York Knicks, Boston Celtics, Oklahoma City Thunder, Golden State Warriors and Chicago Bulls, and is the NBA’s only three-time Slam Dunk Contest champion.
Robinson said one of the most important things he wanted to teach the children, who ranged in age from 9-12 during the early session and 13-18 in the later session, is to continue to work hard to get better in the face of adversity.
“Some kids get discouraged, but you’ve got to keep positive,” Robinson said. “Just because you don’t succeed doesn’t mean you can’t do it. You’ve got to keep working harder at it.”
The “Yes We Can” Center is a 60,000 square-foot indoor facility equipped with two NBA-sized basketball courts, a fitness center, computer rooms, an Internet cafe, community meeting rooms and a lounge area. The center opened last September with a ceremony that featured former Knicks center Marcus Camby.
“This is a unique opportunity for young athletes to have a world-class basketball player as their trainer,” said Town of North Hempstead Supervisor Jon Kaiman in a statement. “This would not be possible without having a state-of-the-art facility like the ‘Yes We Can’ Center right here in North Hempstead.”
Brian Huber, who co-owns Fundamental Sports Training, said Robinson hosted a four-day clinic at the company’s facility earlier in the week and had an opening in his schedule that enabled him to conduct the clinic with North Hempstead.
Bryanna Pitcon, 11, of Westbury, said she enjoyed working with Robinson because the clinic helped improved her dribbling and shooting.
“It was really, really fun because I got to see all the drills he does,” said Pitcon, a Miami Heat fan who said her favorite player was LeBron James.
Jordan Goodman, 12, of Westbury, said he appreciated learning the different drills NBA players perform regularly to prepare for a game.
“It was a good workout,” Goodman said. “[Robinson] puts you through a lot of drills but he makes it fun. He’s very funny.”
Goodman, who said he’s followed Robinson’s NBA career since he played for the Knicks, said Robinson showed him step-by-step the different one-on-one moves in his offensive repertoire so that the campers could practice at home.
“I learned how to do a jab-spin dribble drive,” Goodman said.
Westbury resident Ralph Anderson, 11, who attended the camp with Goodman, said Robinson helped the campers improve on the weaker aspects of their games in addition to working on their strengths.
“Say a kid is left-handed, he would come over and try and get you to use the other hand when dribbling,” Anderson said.
Anderson said he was excited to work with Robinson because star NBA players don’t often hold camps on Long Island, and was surprised Robinson participated in drills alongside the campers he was coaching.
“I like that he acts like a regular person,” Anderson said. “He didn’t have any bodyguards or a crew, he just came out and played with us like a regular person.”
New Hyde Park resident Ben Cradin, who was attending the afternoon session, said he wanted the chance to work with an NBA star who had been coached by some of the biggest names in basketball.
“Anything he can teach me, I’d want to know and use in my game, said Cradin, 14. “Despite his height, he can do anything as well as any of the guys who are bigger than him. He’s phenomenal.”