Wednesday, May 26th, 2010 at 4:13 pm  |  13 responses

Nike Elite Youth Pre-Draft Camp

Nike kicks off its basketball program aimed at identifying and developing young talent.

by Bryan Crawford / @_BryanCrawford

final-pre-draft-logoOn Sunday, May 23rd at Attack Athletics in Chicago, Nike held it’s first ever Pre-Draft Camp series for 6th, 7th, and 8th grade basketball players. The premise of the camp is that it presents an opportunity for kids to experience workouts and skills training that before now, were only eligible to athletes at the higher levels of basketball. The participants were taken through multiple stations around the Attack facility to work on things like ball-handling, shooting, and basketball scenarios aimed at increasing their basketball IQ.

But the one-day camp also served an even bigger purpose.

Carlton DeBose, who is Nike Basketball’s Elite Youth Field Rep, sat down with me to discuss the larger goal of the camp which could be coming to a city near you.

SLAM: So what is the purpose of Nike putting together an event like this?

Carlton DeBose: Well, what we’re really trying to do is identify the next generation of players out of each area that we hold these events in and by identifying them at the 6th, 7th, and 8th grade levels, we also want to play a role in their development by exposing them to what’s done at the highest levels.

SLAM: When you say that you want to play a role in their development, what’s the end game?

CD: Even though a lot of these kids are skilled, we want them to see how much work goes into playing at the highest levels and we want to lay a foundation that they can build upon in an effort to hopefully get them to achieve their dreams.

SLAM: What was the thought process or the reason behind the need to identify players at the earliest stages of their development?

CD: I’ll give you a good example. A majority of the kids who participate in the Nike Hoops Jamboree [held annually in St. Louis, MO] are sophomores in high school. Some freshmen make it, but a majority of them are sophomores. By that time–especially if a player is really good–they’re already so well established in their habits that in our limited time with them, it’s hard to break them from those habits, and a lot of those habits are bad. So we feel that by putting kids in the Pre-Draft system, say in the 6th grade, we can work with them that year and also in the 7th and 8th grade too and that gives us three years to work with them at the earliest stages of their development.

SLAM: And after those initial three years have passed, what happens next?

CD: Then they leapfrog into the next stage which is the Nike Hoops Jamboree if they turn out to be pretty good freshmen and sophomores in high school. From there, then they’ll go on to one of the Nike Skills Academies. So that gives us a minimum of six years to aid in a players development if we identify them in the 6th grade and of course if we don’t get them until the 7th or 8th grade, then it becomes a minimum of four to five years that we can work with them. We’re just trying to establish a situation where we can get to them earlier.

SLAM: What is the experience level of the coaches taking them through the drills?

CD: It’s a mixture. Some of these guys have played at the highest levels, some of them coach high school, and some coach at the college level. A lot of times you have people who have experience in the higher levels of basketball but for whatever reason can’t teach a younger kid. So we make sure to not only get people across multiple experience levels, but who can also teach and have a passion for the development of kids.

SLAM: I can tell. Watching the instructors here today, there is a lot of stopping and coaching going on at each station.

CD: That’s the idea of it. A lot of the guys here today have high school coaching experience, college coaching experience, some train pros and college guys, and some have experience working with the age and grade level of the kids here today.

SLAM: So this is like the pilot or the kick-off, if you will, and the plan is to expand to other cities across the country?

CD: Yeah. This is the pilot and we’re going to do more cities coming up real soon throughout the summer.

SLAM: Is there something bigger planned beyond just holding events like this or are these camps just strictly being used to identify the best of the best?

CD: Yes, actually there is something planned past this. In May 2011, we’ll have an event for the best players that we identified in all of the cities. Kind of like a big showcase type of event.

SLAM: Is there a cost associated with this event?

CD: Yeah, well for this one, the cost was $95 per kid. That includes instruction, a guest speaker, lunch, and Nike products which includes a t-shirt, a reversable jersey, and shorts for all of the participants.

A special thanks to Nike and Carlton DeBose for allowing me access into this event. The idea is phenomenal, thepre-draft-photo instruction I observed was on point, and the kids were really receptive. While there were a lot of players who showed great potential and tons of upside, three stood out to me as head and shoulders above the rest.

Jahlil Okafor is a 6-8 power post-player who is also a distant cousin of the New Orleans Hornets Emeka Okafor. He’s extremely skilled around the basket and already has a scholarship offer from DePaul. Paul White is a 6-5 guard with ridiculous basketball skills that I observed two weeks ago in an 8th grade all-star game. Both Okafor and White are planning to enroll at Whitney Young High School as freshman in the fall.

Christian Jackson is a dazzling young PG in the class of 2015. Although small in stature, what he lacks in size he more than makes up for in his excellent understanding and feel for the game. His father is Loren Jackson, a well known prep coach here in Chicago who coached current NBA Draft prospects Mac Koshwal from DePaul, Craig Brackins from Iowa State, anda number of high level basketball players throughout the years including Sean Dockery who played at Duke.

Put these three kids on your radar now as you’ll be hearing a lot more about them in the coming years.

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  • http://www.yougotdunkedon.com LilKDub503

    I feel a little skeptical of having 6th graders already glorified. It hurts an 11 year olds morale when he can’t do something, and has little chance to come up. The rich get richer, I guess.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Cub Buenning

    Cosign LilKDub. After a decade of teaching and coaching middle school students, I was pushed to the opinion that club sports/traveling teams should be abolished for children under the age of 15. Sports for kids should be about being on a team, playing games with your friends and having FUN! Not competing for attention and individual shine.

    In related news, I just signed up my 4-year-old daughter for her first soccer league…. at the YMCA. Novel idea, eh?

  • http://slamonline.com Bryan Crawford

    I think the larger point of this event is being overlooked. Sure, who doesn’t want to identify the next great player? There’s certainly nothing wrong with that in my mind, but that wasn’t what this event was about. There was no scrimmaging or anything like that going on, this camp was designed to teach fundamentals and basketball skills, something that is sorely lacking in a lot of players that you see today across all levels, in my opinion. And if a player or two got noticed, so be it. If they’re good, somebody’s going to eventually find them anyway.

  • http://www.twitter.com/rodgerbohn Rodger Bohn

    I had a chance to see both Okafor and White a few weeks ago playing up. Both have a chance to be special, and I think White may have grown even taller than 6’6. Glad to see you give my guy Loren some love, too! Don’t call it a comeback, but Boys 2 Men Academy may be back in 2010. Great stuff Bryan!

  • http://www.slamonline.com Cub Buenning

    Bryan, agreed on your points (I’ve loved your coverage over the past week or so) especially on the lack of fundamentals in the game. I just have a major personal beef with how sports and america’s youth are being “meshed” nowadays.

    The last sentence of your comment is totally true and kinda serves my point.

    IMO, these kids should be playing summer baseball, going to music camp or swimming at the local pool. In other words, being kids.

  • http://slamonline.com Bryan Crawford

    Cub, we live in different times. If you’re anywhere in your 30′s then of course you can remember when things were simpler. When sports were played “in-season” only. When you didn’t go to hoops camps, instead you played pickup in the summer to work on your game. When basketball wasn’t really a year-round thing like it is now. But that’s because the business side of things have finally trickled down into the amateur levels. It was bound to happen at some point. Sure, shady things happen, they always have, but the positive benefit of this new trend is kids nowadays are more educated and have access to so much more information than I ever did when I was their age. I think it’s wise to take advantage of the information, coaching, and teaching that are available too them. Especially if they’re serious and want to make it their professions. Whether they make it as players, coaches, scouts, GM’s, journalists, whatever, knowledge of the game is key in succeeding in the business of basketball no matter what you’re trying to do. And they can still hang out and swim and do what kids do in the summer. The only difference being they’re hanging out and swimming in different pools around the country instead of just their local one.

  • http://slamonline.com Bryan Crawford

    Preciate the love too, Cub.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Cub Buenning

    yeah, I hear you bryan. I just hate specialization.
    What happened to well-rounded individuals?

    The 3-sport high school athlete?

    Unfortunately,THIS is what happened.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Cub Buenning

    Yes, I am somewhere(closer to 40) in my 30s… A simpler time?
    “In my day, little whippersnapper!”
    My summers as a kid consisted of swimming, riding bikes,playing organized baseball, caddying at the local CC and playing kick the can into the night.

    “IN MY DAY….”

  • http://slamonline.com Bryan Crawford

    Cub, I’m right there with you, man. I’m not that close to 40 yet, but we’re definitely from the same era so we remember a lot of the same things.

  • Carolina

    Where do we find more information on other camps in other cities?

  • William Mckinney

    I need to pre-register for the Nike Draft camp in Chantilly,Va for the november 12th.

  • Robert Hunter

    Kids have always specialized. Just not in “our neighborhoods.” We could not afford it. Tennis, racquetball, polo, etc; are sports where young kids get the chance to play at a level close to their professional peers. Along with the training dedicated to getting better in that particular sport.