Carlos Boozer's annual basketball camp at his alma mater, Juneau-Douglas High School, hits the midway point today, but the biggest news to come out so far is about the 2011 edition - it's going to be free.
"The goal for next year is to have a free camp and to have the kids come through, use the different gyms and just let them come for free," he said. "They'll get the exact same coaching, fundamental work, the afternoon games and the Friday championship games, but it will be free.
"We just want to give back to Alaska the way it's given back to me."
Boozer's eyes lit up when the topic turned to the Crimson Bears girls' basketball team, the reigning 4A state champions. Several key players return next season to defend their title, and Boozer knows a little something about that. He led the JDHS boys to back-to-back state crowns in 1997 and '98.
"They have to know the 'X' will be on their backs," he said. "After you win the first one, you've proven that you're a champion and people take notice. People start paying more attention to you and they're going to get every team's best game. They'll be the favorites."
Whether they want it or not, Boozer said, the Crimson Bears will be under a lot of pressure.
"The biggest thing is they need to stay together as a group and if they lose a game, don't get too low," he said. "If they stay focused, they can win it back to back. But it's not going to be easy. Sometimes the second one is harder because everybody expects you to win it. From my perspective, I wish them the best of luck."
Boozer also said he heard about the first meeting between the Juneau-Douglas and Thunder Mountain boys' programs last season, and how the gym at JDHS was packed like it was during his playing days.
Boozer said competition is good when it comes to having two high schools in Juneau now, but he hopes it doesn't drive a wedge between the two fanbases.
"When I was in high school, I loved having just the one school. All of my friends played on the same football, baseball, basketball teams, whatever sport, and I think it might divide the community a little bit if you have kids staying in just one area of town," he said. "But it's already over and done with. We have two high schools now so I think the rivalry is going to grow as the competition grows and the kids grow."
This has been a big offseason for Boozer after having found a new home in Chicago with the Bulls, where he is looking forward to the start of the 2010-11 season.
In addition to landing Boozer, Chicago also brought in two of his former Utah Jazz teammates, Kyle Korver and Ronnie Brewer, and a new head coach in Tom Thibodeau.
"We have a great group of guys, a young nucleus and a new coach in town who won a championship with the Celtics in 2008," Boozer said. "For me, I'm looking forward to coming in with my experience and the goal is to win a ring."
Boozer likes Chicago's chances with emerging star Derrick Rose at point guard, a "top five center" in Joakim Noah, and a "very talented and versatile player" in Luol Deng, as well as Brewer, Korver, Kurt Thomas and Taj Gibson.
"When you add me into the mix, I think we'll be right there (in the title hunt). Everybody's talking about other teams - as they should -but we'll go out there and earn our respect," Boozer said. "We don't want anybody to give us anything. We'll be the underdog but I guarantee that we'll have something to say come playoff time."
Boozer likes Los Angeles, San Antonio and Denver out of the Western Conference, but he thinks the East might be a bit more top-heavy with the likes of Chicago, Miami, Boston and Orlando.
"The top four or five teams in the East have been good the last three or four years. The Western Conference will always be good with the Lakers, San Antonio, Denver - all those teams will be good, 50-plus win teams," he said. "The East is going to be really good, though. Those top four or five teams are going to be battling it out and it should be exciting to see how the East is won this year."
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