They could’ve been chilling, playing video games, sleeping, spending time with family or working on their own games as they prepare to make another NCAA tournament run this winter.
Instead, they were at Anniston’s High School’s gymnasium, volunteering as counselors at the Sarrell Dental Basketball Camp where they taught area youths the foundational principles of the game such as shooting, dribbling and passing.
In their minds it was the least they could do.
“Anytime you can be a positive role model to kids, it’s good,” said Steele, a redshirt junior guard from Birmingham. “I know we can all look back to times when we were their age and we had those people who took time out of their schedules to come give us a positive influence.”
This was the second year Sarrell has put on summer basketball camp for kids. Last year, they brought the camp to five cities in the state. Sunday marked the first time the non-profit organization held one in Anniston.
Sarrell CEO Jeffrey Parker said bringing the four-hour camp to Anniston, the location of Sarrell’s first office, was a no-brainer. His relationship with Anniston boys basketball coach Schuessler Ware, along with the Bulldogs state championship pedigree and reputation as the county’s premiere basketball school, made Anniston High an easy choice for a location.
“This is our way of not just being a dentist but giving back to kids to stay in school, stay off drugs and be around their role models,” Parker said.
And that’s not just corporate lip service.
Sarrell put on the camp free of charge while furnishing attendees with a t-shirt as well as top-notch instruction from guys they see on television all the time.
“Most of the kids that come to this camp can’t afford to go to the Alabama basketball camp. These are tough economic times and this is our way of giving back to the community.”
While it was philanthropic, it was also a ton of fun.
In between drills, Randolph, Lacey and Gueye played some impromptu games of 1-on-1. Gueye, all 7-foot, 280 pounds of him, showed off his power in the post, Lacey, a Huntsville native, flashed the high-arching, dead on 3-point shot that made him a two-time Mr. Basketball award winner and the Tide’s biggest basketball signee in the Class of 2011. Randolph, also from Huntsville ended the session, by bouncing the ball off the floor, catching it and throwing down a windmill dunk.
“It would’ve been big for a college basketball player to come and talk to me,” Randolph said reflecting on his upbringing in Huntsville. “Instead of not knowing how to get to a certain spot, it would’ve been a good way for them to give me guidelines to know what steps to take.”
Drills included the basics such as jump shooting and free throws as well as the complex stuff such as two-ball dribbling, which helps players handle the ball with both their dominant and weaker hands.
George Salmon smiled as he watched his son, eight-year old son Nicholas, work to perfect his free-throw form from afar.
“He loves basketball and he loves Alabama basketball,” George Salmon said. “So it was a win-win for us. Plus, we wanted him to learn some of the basic skills.”
Ware said having the players on hand was invaluable. Hearing a word of encouragement from a parent, teacher or coach is one thing. But hearing one from someone who previously only existed in print or on television and is where you want to be is something else.
“It helped the kids see that there’s a future if you put the hard work and time into it,” Ware said. “It means a whole lot.”
Nick Birdsong covers prep sports for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3575. Follow him on Twitter @birds_word.