First Person: What I learned at the Holiday Clinic?
The last day of the year on a chilly Monday was the UNC Men’s Basketball Holiday Clinic. Fans at the UNLV game on Saturday could see signs advertising the clinic scattered about the Dean Dome. The clinic was broken into two sessions: first, second & third graders in the morning followed by fourth, fifth & sixth graders at Noon. Each session had about 250 participants and was run by the UNC coaching staff, players and managers.
I attended the Noon session, Coach Williams welcomed the campers and reminded parents the purpose of the clinic and the parents’ role during the clinic---to watch and not be heard nor get in the way. Coach Williams handed the camp direction over to Coach Davis. Quickly, Davis had the 250 fourth, fifth and sixth grade boys and girls make a circle around him. It was time to get the campers fired up. When I close my eyes I can imagine the team on the video board before they run through the tunnel onto the court. The players are in a circle doing their pregame huddle, a rhythmic beat via clapping and chanting “Hey,” while a player in the center is dancing. Coach Davis tried to emulate Leslie McDonald’s moves since Dexter Strickland was not up for showcasing his dance moves to the troop. McDonald did not want to disappoint the eager students, so he jumped in to show everyone how it’s done. Now all the campers were fired up (along with the parents) and ready for some Carolina Basketball.
I admired as the coaches quickly broke the campers into smaller groups of about eleven similar aged kids. From past experience with my son’s ball team I know this is not an easy feat. The freshmen led the collection of campers through stretching and defense drills while being heckled by the coaches. Four stations were then established: two on the Smith Center court, one in the Peeble’s Practice court and one in the stands. My son started in the Q&A group lead by Eric Hoots. Players alternated, one at a time, in a Q&A session with the campers. I was entertained so much by listening to the kids questions that I spent most of my time in the Q&A group instead of working on my jab step, dribbling and shooting (this also helped me to stay out of the way per Coach). After the first group, Hoots decided a little background before the interrogation session started would be helpful: name, hometown, year at UNC, high school attended, and other tidbits most of the adults would want to know.
The 9-12 year olds wanted to learn about things that are important to them: What is your favorite video game? Can you dunk? Have you ever made a half court shot? What’s your favorite color? What’s your favorite food? Who is your best friend on the team?
So what did I learn at the UNC Holiday Clinic?
From McDonald:Best Friend on the Team: DexterFavorite Video Game: Mario KartFavorite Food: Mom’s spaghettiFavorite Color: Red, don’t judge me FavoriteNBA Player: LeBronFavorite NBA Team: Heat, cause that is where LeBron playsHave you made a half court shot: Yes, plenty
Multiple groups were able to hear from McDonald and amazingly enough he was asked many different questions. Did you know McDonald has never played organized baseball? If McDonald could play another sport at Carolina he would play football and sees himself as a tight end. The hardest place he has played at was Kentucky. He would not like to change his name, not even to Raymond. He likes to play at Cameron especially when the Heels win. There is nothing better than beating them at their place. And yes, Duke is the worst team. No McDonald has not had formal dance classes, all those dance moves he learned from his mom. He grew up watching her dance around the house.
From Strickland:Best Friend on the Team: LeslieFavorite Video Game: Far CryFavorite Food: Pizza, Italian foodFavorite Restaurant in Chapel Hill: Noodles and CompanyFavorite NBA Player: Russell WestbrookFavorite MLB Team: YankeesFavorite NFL Team: NY GiantsHave you made a half court shot: Yes, about three
Strickland earned big points in my book when he told the kids he loves his sister too much to fight with her. His favorite player to guard is someone slow. Strickland was asked to dance and dunk numerous times. He graciously gave all the dancing praise to McDonald. Growing up Strickland played with his idol’s card, Tracy McGrady, in his sock.
Not many times do you hear an athlete be brutally honest about an injury. Strickland was quick to say the day he got hurt was like living a nightmare. It was an extremely painful day for him. Both McDonald and Strickland were certain there would be another banner hanging in the rafters of the Smith Center if it were not for all the injuries last year. Yet another reminder of how injuries broke the hearts of Carolina fans.
From Marcus Paige:Best Friend on the Team: Brice Favorite Video Game: NBA 2K13Favorite Fruit: GrapesFavorite Color: Carolina blue, always liked blue now it is just lighterFavorite NBA Player: Chris PaulFavorite NBA Team: ClippersFavorite NFL Team: don’t have oneWhen did you start playing basketball: 2nd grade
I also learned that Paige is not a fan of WWE, played baseball until 8th grade and Vince Carter was his favorite player to follow growing up.
From Reggie Bullock:Best Friend on the Team: P.J.Favorite NBA Player: KobeFavorite NBA Team: LakersFavorite Subject in School: MathHave you made a half court shot: Yes
Most of you reading this will never know what it is to run through the tunnel onto the Smith Center with the crowd chanting and cheering for you and your teammates. Bullock was inspiring giving the kids a glimpse into how this makes him feel and how amazing it is every time. Bullock’s goal was to stay in the state of North Carolina to be close to his grandmother. Carolina was really his only desire and afforded him that opportunity. Lucky for us he wanted to attend UNC. It is hard to imagine having to see him in red, black or that other shade of blue. And yes Bullock has a girlfriend!
From P.J. Hairston:Favorite Video Game: Call of Duty: Black Ops 2Favorite TV Show: Martin, Family Guy, and SimpsonsFavorite Food: Mom’s spaghettiFavorite Restaurant: Cheesecake FactoryFavorite Color: YellowFavorite NBA Player: CP3Favorite NBA Team: ClippersFavorite MLB Team: Yankees, I like A RodFavorite NFL Team: Ravens
Hairston was bombarded with lots of “what is you least favorite…” questions. So now I know: least favorite ACC team-Duke, least favorite sport-lacrosse, least favorite food-anything with onions, peppers and spices.
From Luke Davis:Best Friend on the Team: James Michael or Desmond Favorite Food: Chicken wingsFavorite Restaurant in Chapel Hill: Sutton’sFavorite NBA Player: Kendall Marshall or any player from last yearFavorite NBA Team: Any team that the guys drafted last year are onFavorite MLB Team: Red Sox because my dad follows themFavorite NFL Team: Panthers
Growing up, Carolina was Davis’ favorite team and he enjoyed watching Ed Cota play. Now he has played summer pick up with Felton, Lawson and Sheed. Earlier this season, Davis played against Gardner-Webb. He said it was weird at first but at the end of the day it was just another team he wanted to beat.
From Jackson Simmons:Best Friend on the Team: James Michael or Luke DavisFavorite TV Show: Family GuyFavorite Food: NY StripFavorite Gum: BazookaFavorite NBA Player: KobeFavorite NBA Team: Lakers
Simmons leads the state of North Carolina with the most rebounds in high school. He is friends with Tyler Lewis even though he attends N.C. State.
From Brice Johnson:Best Friend on the Team: All of them, we all are cool with each otherFavorite Video Game: Call of DutyFavorite Movie: TransformersFavorite Color Pink or Purple: PurpleFavorite NBA Player: LeBronFavorite NBA Team: Oklahoma CityFavorite Subject in School: Math
I learned that Johnson dislikes brussel sprouts so much he does not consider them food. In middle school, Johnson played the saxophone and dunked for the first time. He has no friends on the Duke team. Most importantly, Johnson chose to attend UNC because it is a great school academically and it has a great tradition. Being an only child it was also important to Johnson to be close to home.
During the second group a kid asked, “Do you go to school in Chapel Hill?” The player proudly answered, “Yes, I attend classes at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.” You can imagine the hard time that kid’s buddies gave him.
Thanks to players and campers for providing an entertaining holiday clinic for me while my son worked on his basketball skills. Plus, I learned how many seats are currently in the Smith Center. Do you know?