For years, Reebok has stood as one of the biggest names in those summer camps. From the ABCD Camp that turned out stars like Kobe Bryant and Rashard Lewis, the brand that’s given the world the sneaker lines the Pump and the Answer has been helping to showcase elite high school talent for years.
Their current summer camp, the Reebok Breakout Classic, has taken it to a new level. This year’s camp features more than 140 of the top players from around the US, and invitations are earned, not given. Reebok hosted 11 Reebok Classic Open Runs around the country throughout the spring, giving high school stars the chance to net themselves an invitation through their play to perform in front of nearly 200 college coaches.
Camp opened at Philadelphia University on Wednesday. After a day of drills and coaching, campers got a break mid-afternoon to hear some wisdom from the Classic Rap Roundtable. Moderated by Sway Calloway of Sway in the Morning and MTV fame, the roundtable featured hoops legends Shaquille O’Neal, Dominique Wilkins and Shawn Kemp, current pros Isaiah Thomas and Gerald Green, hip-hop titans Jadakiss and DJ Drama and comedian Lil Duval. The panel shared stories of how they came up in their respective games, how they stayed on top (or worked to get back there, in Green’s case) and their Reebok memories.
Shaq told campers that after getting cut from his high school team despite being 6-11, his father took him to an NBA game and pointed out overpaid, underperforming big men. Seeing that he had the size to be a pro, Shaq dedicated himself to the game and worked his way up the ranks, despite not being able to attend the major summer camps.
Wilkins, who said he left home in Baltimore at 16 to move in with family in North Carolina on his own, insisted to the crowd that they not make excuses. Kemp pushed the value of hard work on the campers, as he and ‘Nique reminded the campers that every major program in the country would be in attendance.
“If you think you’ve worked hard already, you haven’t. If you think you’re good enough, you’re not,” the Reign Man said.
Green echoed that, telling the campers about the work he’s put in on his path from high school stud to NBA player to overseas journeyman right back to the League, while Thomas let the high schoolers know how vital the competition at the Reebok camps he attended were to his career.
“You never know who’s watching,” Thomas said. “Once you get on the court, you should have no friends.”
With those words bouncing on the hardwood, the players laced them up for some game action, showing off their skills in front of big names like UConn coach Kevin Ollie, John Calipari of Kentucky and Larry Brown of Southern Methodist, with representatives from just about every other DI school in the building. The loaded camp roster, featuring a host of five-star recruits, didn’t disappoint.
Decked out in colorful jerseys and an array of classic Reebok Questions, Pump Omnis, Kamikazes, along with some of the brand’s newest releases, the kids came out to play. Games started off a bit sloppy on the first day of camp, with teams getting their first chance to play together, as passes went to the wrong team and players struggled to find their man in transition, but play picked up as the games wore on.
One of the marquee matchups of the day was a showdown between heralded big men Diamond Stone (Dominican HS, WI, 2015) and Skal Labissiere (Evangelical Christian School, TN, 2015), ranked 6th and 11th in ESPN’s Top 100, respectively. While Stone used his size to control the game early on, Labiessiere took over late with his smooth, end-to-end game and long arms.
While there were plenty of big men on display, several of whom, like Labiessiere, were able to take the ball end to end unlike generations before them, the swingmen brought the heat as well.
PJ Dozier (Spring Valley, SC, 2015) showed off an easy athleticism as he elevated above the crowd for pull-up jumpers. Admiral Schofield (Zion Benton Township, IL, 2015) displayed a bruising inside-outside game and playing bigger than his 6-6 frame. In the last game of the evening, Philly product Derrick Jones (Archbishop John Carroll, PA, 2015), who drew the attention of Coach Cal among a host of others, lit it up. Despite leaving early to strap a bag of ice to his shin, Jones dunked everything in sight from the game’s start, getting up for an alley-oop late in the game, while also working hard on the glass and making a few nifty passes.
When the buzzer sounded on the last game of the night, players and coaches finally dispersed for the night. Action picks back up bright and early Thursday morning, and the camp runs through Friday.