[ Passing this post along from/for Dave. -- Ben ]
This is the fifth installment from Portland Trail Blazers Director of Scouting Mike Born who is helping to lead the Basketball Without Borders in Africa. Mike is contributing his thoughts here and you can also read them at iamatrailblazersfan.com.
DAY 5 - last day of camp. We finished the camp by doing a youth girls basketball clinic on Sunday morning for girls ages 12-17. Teresa Edwards and Nykesha Sales directed the activities and many of the other coaches here helped with the drills. Following camp, the girls listened to the HIV/AIDS message from Hoops4Hope just as they boys did. The message was the same, but how they taught it was quite different. Hoops4Hope is doing some wonderful things in South Africa.
After the seminar wrapped up we headed into the final games of the 2009 camp. Unfortunately, I could not end on a win and went 0-2 on the day. We lost in the championship game to the Rockets by 10 points. There are no official stats, but I think we went 5-16 from the free throw line and each free throw counted as two points because they only shoot one on fouls and each shot is worth two points unless it was a three-point attempted shot. Of our missed free throws, we had two that were worth three points. Doing the quick math, that means we left 24 points on the line...just could not knock them down. Our team played hard and the guys were upset we lost, but I loved to see how bad they wanted to win. I also got to coach the white all-star team. They selected 26 kids total to participate in the all-star game and man they did not disappoint- lots of pride on the court in that game. Feeling a bit bummed after the close loss, I was quickly brought back to the reality of this terrific event when I had numerous players come up to me and give me hugs for coaching them during the week. I had brought a bunch of Blazer gear that our equipment manager Geoff Clark gave to me to give away so all the "Lakers" were finally hooked-up with the right team. The guys were so appreciative of the practice shorts, t-shirts, socks, etc. All the campers here were kids who understand the opportunity that this camp provided.
NBA cares. I think we have all seen many of these ads, but every time I see these on television from this point forward, it will be different. Every time I see how our Blazer players or other NBA/WNBA players are helping in their communities, I will take note. To know the work that all of the NBA/WNBA players did this week here in Africa gives me a greater appreciation for every player in both leagues who do this sort of community outreach. Every player here volunteered his/her time to come to South Africa and seemed to have fun doing it. I would venture to guess that most of them accumulated some fond memories about BWOB Africa just as I have.
I have always believed I was a fortunate person. I know I am blessed. I reflect on the importance of the people who helped lead me to where I am today in my life- the direction I received from my parents, the influential teachers/coaches/adults/friends I have had on the journey. I have a beautiful wife, three wonderful and healthy children, a terrific job scouting basketball for a great NBA organization and I work with a tremendous group of people. I consider myself a positive person and have always tried to see the good in things. I know no matter how bad things may seem at a particular time in my life, I have no right to complain as there are so many people with worse situations. I always try to see the cup as half full, but after this week, I have an even deeper appreciation for all the blessings in my life.
The meanings of words like inspiration, blessed, humbled, spirit, purpose, passion, energy, hardships, oppressed, legacy, appreciation, grateful, caring, love, direction, leadership, education and happiness have all changed a bit in my perspective. I have witnessed all these things to a different level.
If you had a chance to read about the five days I have spent here, you can tell this was an amazing week. The people I have had the chance to meet and the things I have been able to see have changed how I view life. At the barbeque after all the events today, I was speaking to one of the players on my team and told him I would try to help him to play basketball in the United States. He is a nice player and a good kid. He told me thank you and gave me a huge hug. It was a hug you might expect to receive from your wife of 15 years or your daughter after being on the road traveling for 10 days, but it was from someone I had known five days. His unbelievable embrace and how he said "thank you coach" was a touching ending to this journey.
I hope everyone enjoyed sharing in this experience of a lifetime with me. Now let's get our season rolling! GO BLAZERS!
-- Ben (firstname.lastname@example.org)