PEMBROKE — Nigel Grant finished his career with the University of North Carolina at Pembroke men’s basketball team in March, but he made sure to stick around for an event that made a lasting impact on him in his two years with the Braves.
Children from kindergarten to ninth grade filled the English E. Jones Center from Monday to Wednesday to participate in the 10th installment of the Ben Miller basketball camp. With the help of current and former UNCP players and coaches, the participants improved their skills through a variety of competitive drills and games.
“It definitely feels good to give back to the community,” Grant said. “I’ve seen these kids the two years that I’ve been here and they show me nothing but love, so I show them love back.”
The participants rotated between breakout activities and demonstrations given by Miller and his team. Some of the activities, such as a talent show on the camp’s final day, allowed them to showcase their abilities off the basketball court.
The campers were encouraged to strengthen their fundamental skills in each activity. One of the events had the campers participating in a cereal eating contest while squatting in a defensive position.
Miller said one of his favorite aspects of the camp was seeing his players develop friendships with the campers.
“It was a great week. We had a really good turnout,” Miller said. “The players and coaches did a really good job with the kids. They worked hard and they had a lot of fun.”
The camp culminated with a scrimmage between current and former UNCP players on the last day of the camp. Alumni such as Marcus Heath, Mike Smith and Jihad Wright participated in the festivities.
“This is actually the first year where we’ve had a current versus former players game,” Miller said. “Some of those guys will be around next year to help out. Marcus was a great player for us. He has experience playing for the All-Army Team and he’ll be a great addition to the staff.”
For the program’s younger players, such as Lumberton graduate David Strother, the camp was a learning experience.
“We’ve been learning from them as well as teaching them stuff,” the rising sophomore guard said. “It’s been fun giving back to the community. Helping them grow and get better.”
Strother said the scrimmage was a good way of entertaining the campers, but it also provided a preview of things to come.
“We haven’t been together all summer and we’re already clicking, so it’s going to be a good year,” Strother said.
The most important part of the camp for those involved was helping the kids improve their skills in an encouraging environment.
“My favorite part of these camps is watching the kids get better over these three days,” Grant said. “On Monday, I met a kid who couldn’t play. Today he’s making jump shots. It definitely motivates me to watch them get better.”
Reach Brandon Tester at 910-816-1989 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @BrandonTester.