Yesterday I noted an article by Kerry Eggers of the Portland Tribune regarding Portland Trail Blazers center Marcus Camby and his work with the NBA's Basketball Without Borders program in Spain. This morning I had a few minutes to catch up with Camby by telephone as he shuffled from place to place in what has been a whirlwind first visit to Spain for the Portland big man.
Despite the hectic schedule, Camby sounded as energetic as always. "The experience has been great. It's my first time over in Spain, first time in Barcelona. To just have the chance to work with these kids from around Europe, it's been great, really hands-on. These young kids have the foundation down but they just need the polish up on their games and they'll have a chance to be pretty good basketball players. Just as a whole, going out to all these different events we run every day, working with Special Olympics kids, that's been beneficial to me personally."
Basketball Without Borders offers camps for players of all different positions but Camby has come away most impressed by the quality of young Euro bigs. "As I've seen all these big men across the country, these young up-and-coming big men, they're very big. There's one guy in the camp who is 7'3"! From Hungary. He's a little bit raw but he has all the skills of a big man, he can shoot with either hand. The most important thing about these young kids now is that they're eager to listen and learn and that's awesome."
As planned, Camby checked in with Blazers guard Rudy Fernandez during a trip to a local children's hospital this weekend. "I saw [Rudy] yesterday. We had gone to a children's hospital and he joined us and I was able to see him for a brief second." The conversation was short and to the point. "I was just making sure he was alright and making sure he was healthy for the upcoming season. That was pretty much the gist of our conversation."
Given Fernandez's frustrating spring, dramatic summer and tough exit during the World Championships, I asked Camby for his impressions of Fernandez's mood. "Oh, he seemed great here," he responded, chuckling. "I don't know if it's because he's home or being here in Spain, but he seemed good. He seemed slim and fit."
Camby also said he had no idea whether Fernandez will join Portland for training camp later this month. "As for his plans, you know that's still up in the air," Camby said. "I really don't know what's going on. I only played with Rudy for like 30+ games so the stuff that went on before then, I have no knowledge of. We would definitely like to have him on our team."
Another major storyline for Portland is the status of Greg Oden, another of Camby's teammates whose training camp status is currently unknown. "I haven't really seen him all summer, he hasn't really been around the team since I've been around the team, the second half of the season," Camby admitted. "Hopefully when he comes back he comes back healthy. I would just tell him to just keep working hard. It's a tough injury to come back from. We have a great training staff up there in Portland. He's definitely a big part of what we hope to do around there in Portland."
Camby, ever the diplomatic veteran, wasn't ready to declare himself the opening night starting center. "Whatever coach needs me to do. I'm a team player. I'm not really big on starting or anything like that but I just have to be ready when my number is called upon."
From there, Camby will fly to Houston, recuperate for a day, and then return to Portland. "I'm looking forward to getting back out there and getting back to the guys who are working out as training camp embarks."
This summer marks the first time Basketball Without Borders has visited Spain. For some great pictures from the camp, click here.
-- Ben Golliver | firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter