JUNEAU - The Carlos Boozer Basketball Camp comes to a close today at Juneau-Douglas High School, and judging by the unanimous reactions of several campers, it could be the best day yet with the final tournaments - and Bullwinkle's pizza for everybody -determining age group champions.
More than 300 kids from all over Alaska - and as far away as Miami and Washington, D.C. - have participated in what will now be Boozer's yearly camp at his alma mater. Boozer starred for the Crimson Bears from 1996 to 1999, leading the school to back-to-back state championships.
Boozer said it has been an absolute thrill hosting a camp in his hometown, so much so that it will now be an annual thing, with special guests coming along. This year, former Duke teammates Corey Maggette and Jay Williams made the trip.
"I'm so excited about having this camp back home," he said. "We did it a few years ago and it went well, but I've been busy having kids and going to the Olympics and doing different things for the last four years.
"But now that I'm back and I'm situated, I'm going to be here every year."
Boozer said he was blessed to have people help him get where he's at today - currently starring for the Utah Jazz - and he is happy to return the favor to today's Alaska youth.
"It's a great environment to give back to these kids and for them to do something constructive," he said. "For me, I want to help get them off the streets and off of doing drugs, and get them doing something that can help them in the future, whether it's basketball or anything else. I want to put them in a positive mindset and let them know, 'I came from where you guys are from.'"
Kodiak High School rising junior Kendra Lukin, 16, made the trip to work on her skills.
"I met Carlos before when he went to Kodiak a couple of years back, and I love basketball," she said. "I've been playing all my life. This upcoming year, I hope to play for Kodiak. I've been learning to use my left hand more, and just to improve my game overall."
It was a family affair for some campers, with sister Alex Owen, 16, and brother Lewis, 12, taking part together.
Alex, a rising junior from Craig, said she's been learning new skills that will help her and the Craig High School girls'basketball team next year.
"In the mornings we do stations, and every day there's been a different theme," she said. "One day we did defense, and (Thursday) we worked on (getting out in) transition.
"We get a lot of playing time in the games, so that will help."
Lewis, a rising seventh-grader at Craig Middle School staying with family in Juneau, said he hopes to one day beat his big sister in a game 1-on-1. But for now, he's happy being in awe of Boozer.
"This is a great camp. It's awesome," he said. "We get to meet Carlos Boozer, and he's walking around watching us play. He plays in the NBA, and it's really fun to have an NBA player watching us play basketball. It helps me go stronger and harder."
Angoon High School rising junior William Silva, 16, said the camp has been anexperience he'll never forget.
"It was a great opportunity, especially for me not being from Juneau," he said. "I'm from a small town, so this is really cool and I really like it. I had fun meeting Carlos and just seeing him walking around. That's not an everyday thing. We asked him to dunk for us, and Corey Maggette did a 360, and that was awesome. And I got him to sign my shoes, so now they're worth, like $20million."
Juneau's own Eyerusalem Tingley, 14, is about to enter her freshman year at Thunder Mountain High School. Tingley said she feels like playing against boys will make her tougher.
"It's definitely making me better," she said. "We play with coed teams, and it's tough playing against bigger guys, but it will help."
But the camp isn't all about fun and games. Boozer has been delivering the message of staying drug free all week long, and that message is now his mission.
"I was blessed to have people that let me come work out and help me get to where I am today," Boozer said. "I had big dreams, and I didn't do drugs. I was in the classroom getting my education. I stayed in school, I stayed focused, I had people to help me get there and I listened to the right people, the right influences. Not the ones that want to bring you down, but the ones who want to help you and grow with you. Those are the people that I'm trying to help."
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