Adam Beechen in his training camp gear.
I thought, you know, it’d be me and a bunch of the other prospects, sitting around a bonfire in the woods, singing songs, roasting marshmallows, sleeping in bunks and telling ghost stories. We’d share bad meals and “bug juice” in the Big Cabin. We’d do some crafts (I’d been wanting to make my Mom a new dreamcatcher), go swimming in the lake, have some singalongs, and best of all, stage a few panty raids on the girls’ cabin. Most importantly, we’d have a chance to bond, share our dreams about the future, and just have a great time in the fresh air.
I got out of the Orlando airport with my backpack on my back and my sleeping bag under one arm and hopped in a cab, asking the driver to take me to NBA camp, and next thing I knew, we’d pulled up in front of a gym. Okay, I figured, the bus must leave from here for the real camp. But no. I stood in line to check in, and the guy asked me what hotel I was staying in. Hotel? Then I was issued a practice uniform (a camp shirt!) and told to report the next day.
I gotta confess, I was a little confused. I mean, I had three boxes of graham crackers in my backpack and I was ready to make some s’mores! I was ready to meet my bunkmate! And dude, where were the girls?
But I made the best of it, like any good camper faced with, say, a change in the weather. Camp officials graciously allowed me to camp out in my sleeping bag at the free throw line. Actually, they didn’t so much let me as I sort of hid in the gym most nights after closing. Which wasn’t so bad, except that twice I was awakened by a size-sixteen “alarm clock” stepping on my face mid-fast break. And it turns out that you can survive for four days on nothing but graham crackers. They even give you a solid energy boost for about ten minutes…You’re pretty much useless for three hours afterwards, however.
The best part of NBA pre-draft camp? You guessed it, basketball. That’s pretty much all we did, which was a relief, since I’m sort of afraid of swimming (bad experience with an eel, I don’t want to talk about it). Even the camp contests were basketball-related. I’m proud to say that, on measurement day, I placed first among all campers in “Least Height,” “Fewest Bench Press Reps at Any Weight” (the bar alone is surprisingly heavy!) and “Highest Percentage of Body Fat” (mmm, graham crackers).
Other than that, it was hoops all day. Games in the morning, games in the afternoon. I can only say, I wish I’d played more, because when I did play, I had a lot of fun. Trouble was, I spent most of my time with the trainers, as I led the camp in two other categories without even trying: “Most Charges Taken,” and “Most Blocking Fouls Called.” I knew my lack of foot speed would come in handy!
They say, if you want to improve yourself as a basketball player, you need to play against players better than yourself. To which I’d add, you should also play against players taller, faster, stronger, meaner and younger than yourself. I could feel myself improving with every scrimmage. By the end, I knew just which players to (try to) run away from.
FYI: Pro basketball prospects? Not fond of singalongs. I lost three teeth trying to lead the gang in “Michael, Row the Boat Ashore.” Hallelu-yowch!
I did, however, finish the camp 1-for-1 in three-pointers. Chased by a seven-foot, three hundred-pound center from Senegal (whom I thought showed excellent lateral quickness) whom I’d accidentally tripped, I threw the basketball back over my head, trying to knock him unconscious. However, the ball sailed a little high, and banked cleanly through the net. Which, by the way, is a shot I practice, because I’ve been in that situation a few times before.
By the end of the camp, I didn’t feel a whole lot different from when I was a kid leaving camp: I was tired and I had the persistent taste of graham crackers in my mouth. Did I bond? Maybe with the sole of that guy’s sneaker.
But the most important question is, did I improve my stock as a draft prospect? I’d have to say yes. I definitely showcased my skills as a specialist. If you need a charge taken, or a blocking foul committed, I’m your man. As I boarded the bus for home, I felt pretty darn good about myself.
Oh, crap! I forgot to make that dreamcatcher! Sorry, mom.