Rbk U director impressed with first year of camp in Philly

Posted: July 11, 2007

For the past 9 years when Chris Rivers was working under the legendary Sonny Vaccaro at the ABCD camp at Fairleigh Dickinson University in Hackensack, N.J., their only goal was to have the best basketball camp in the country.

On numerous occasions, they accomplished that, sometimes exceeding their own expectations.

But when Vaccaro decided to step aside from the summer basketball camp scene earlier this year, Rivers was thrust into a new role, with ideas and goals of his own.

His main focus: providing a camp that gives participants an overall great basketball experience.

As Rivers sat down yesterday, for the first time since his Rbk U camp began Friday, he revisited the past 5 days and said he was quite pleased with the camp's outcome in its first year.

"I think it went pretty well," said Rivers, the director of Rbk U. "While there are always some things you can improve on next year, I think the biggest thing was that we gave the players, parents and coaches what we promised, and that was a solid, organized camp."

For the first time in nearly a decade of being involved with summer camps, Rivers acknowledged this was the first year he wasn't concerned with what players were in attendance. In the past, ABCD camps drew some of the nation's top high school players year after year, including the likes of Kobe Bryant, Tracy McGrady and Kevin Garnett.

But with the summer basketball camp course taking a different route this year, with a number of different camps at the same time, getting all the best players at one camp was a task in itself.

The Nike-sponsored LeBron James Skills Academy took place this week in Akron, Ohio, as did the adidas Nations tournament in Cincinnati. While most of the top players in the country, such as American Christian product Tyreke Evans, Lance Stephenson from Brooklyn, N.Y., and Demar DeRozan, of Compton, Calif., flocked to Akron, that didn't mean Rbk U was left with the bottom of the barrel.

Brandon Jennings, of Oak Hill Academy, the No. 1-rated point guard in this year's senior class and arguably the best player in the country, joined 6-10 junior Renardo Sidney, of Artesia High in Lakewood, Calif., and Ohio State recruit William Buford, of Toledo, Ohio, as some of the top-name players at the camp, which took place at Philadelphia University.

"Whenever you're up against an organization like Nike that has marquee guys like LeBron James, it is always going to be difficult," said Greg "Shoes" Vetrone, a respected New York City scout who spent 17 years coaching college basketball before shifting his focus to summer camps 6 years ago.

"But I guarantee, if you take our top 20 kids and pair them up against the top 20 kids at any other camp this week, we're definitely right there with them."

Another key that helped make this year's camp successful, Rivers said, was that there were only 120 campers. Rivers said the smaller number of players allowed for more individual attention, less daily maintenance and a more personal atmosphere. As recently as 2001, more than 200 campers attended the ABCD camp. Only 100 players were invited to the Nike camp in Akron.

In addition to the skill development drills and games, campers also were required to attend seminars on media management, finances and shoe marketing, things Rivers said help provide insight on areas outside of basketball.

"All three shoe companies, Reebok, Nike and adidas, all want to be associated with the top players in the nation, but at the end of the day, it is the kid that should be allowed to go wherever is best for their situation," Rivers said.

Despite Rbk U's successful first year, all involved with the camp acknowledged there is a lot of room for improvement. Rahim Thompson, who coaches a number of the Philadelphia-area players who attended the camp, said he would like to see the camp keep some of the area's best players in their own backyard instead of losing them to camps across the country.

"This camp was a long time coming," Thompson said. "The thing is that Philadelphia is a basketball city. We should have already had an elite camp like this here years ago. I think after the turnout this year, and having it at a beautiful facility like Philadelphia U. is going to help our chances a lot more in the future, and in that regards, you couldn't ask for much more at the end of your first year."

Camp notes

Roman Catholic junior Maalik Wayns was named to the Rbk U All-Star team at the end of camp. The 5-9 point guard, who already has orally committed to Villanova, scored two points on 1-for-7 shooting in 9 minutes, 50 seconds of playing time . . .

Roman Catholic junior was named to the Rbk U All-Star team at the end of camp. The 5-9 point guard, who already has orally committed to Villanova, scored two points on 1-for-7 shooting in 9 minutes, 50 seconds of playing time . . .

Dwight Miller, a rising senior from Sugar Land, Texas, received the Dante Anderson Memorial Award. It was given to the top player of the Headliners Tryout Camp, for players who were not invited to Rbk U. Anderson, who played in the Headliners Camp last year, was killed in a car accident on May 19 in Florida . . . Some players entered camp as big-time prospects, while some entered as no-names on the national scale, but made a name for themselves by camp's end. Among the most five impressive players: Olek Czyz (Reno H.S., Nevada), rising freshman LeBryan Nash (Dallas), Terrence Jennings (Durham, N.C.), Courtney Fortson (Montgomery, Ala.) and Quintrell Thomas (Elizabeth, N.J.) *

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