EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Kevin Love fondly recalls going to many basketball camps as a kid. The Minnesota Timberwolves forward once learned the game at camps held by Shaquille O’Neal, A.C. Green and Brian Grant.
So as Love hosted his first annual Kevin Love ProCamp at Eden Prairie High School, he couldn’t help but think of how the basketball camps he attended shaped his future when he was younger.
“I still remember to this day (how that) had a big impact on me,” Love said Saturday, the first day of his two-day camp. “Actually getting to know the kids in my camp group, getting to know my coaches, getting to know all the different campers and kind of get to see where I fit in. Sometimes I played a couple grades up, sometimes I was playing against my own grade. … If I was able to even talk to or reach out and be able to touch an NBA basketball player in living color, it was a big deal for me.”
It was a big deal for the approximately 225 kids ages 7-18 that attended Love’s camp. The two-day camp teaches players the fundamentals of the game at various stations on six different courts, while also incorporating games and competitions. Love made his way from court to court, working and interacting with each of the campers while high-fiving each of the kids.
As much fun as the kids were having, Love appeared to be enjoying himself just as much — if not more so — than the campers.
“It’s great. They’ve got me out here sweating,” Love said. “I think the kids are having a lot of fun here today.”
Love’s camp comes at the tail end of what has been a busy offseason for the 24-year-old. He was a member of the U.S. men’s basketball team that won the gold medal in the 2012 London Olympics. Love led the Americans with 7.6 rebounds per game in eight games. He scored nine points and grabbed nine rebounds in the gold medal game, a 107-100 win for Team USA over Spain.
Love’s Olympic experience wasn’t a focus of his camp, but his time in London helped shape the way he approached his community involvement.
“We’re not really going to be talking much about the Olympics today, but at the Olympics, they mentioned inspiring a generation,” Love said. “That’s what we’re doing here. It’s not just myself, but it’s many people in the community outside of basketball, outside of sports. People are doing a good job around Minnesota helping kids see a bright future.”
Love returned to the Twin Cities on Friday, just in time for Saturday’s camp. In 10 days, he and his fellow Timberwolves teammates will be starting camp, preparing for the 2012-13 season.
When Love and the rest of the Wolves return to their practice facility in downtown Minneapolis, there will be some new faces on the court. Minnesota added several players in the offseason, including veterans Brandon Roy and Andrei Kirilenko and Russian guard Alexey Shved.
Naturally, the new-look Timberwolves were a topic of discussion among some of the kids at Saturday’s camp.
“I just had a couple kids ask me in the team photo, like, ‘Who do you guys even have this year?’ I had to think about it,” Love said. “One of the coaches actually asked me on the mic, he said, ‘Hey, can you name the starting five for you guys this year?’ I kind of had to step back and say, ‘Um, I think you might want to ask Coach Adelman on that one. I’m not exactly sure.’
“It’s going to be a brand new team, but I’m looking forward to this year.”
Love didn’t want to look too far ahead during Saturday’s camp, however. He was focused on teaching hundreds of kids the fundamentals of the game, just like he learned at various camps years ago. He took part in several games of “Knockout,” standing head and shoulders above the younger campers.
But a few campers held their own against the NBA’s 3-point shootout champion, knocking out Love in the fast-paced game.
“Sometimes, you let up just to show them a few things and give them confidence and show them respect for the game, but sometimes you’ve got to be a little hard on them to show them that, hey, listen, I’m very competitive and I want to go out there and show you what I’m made of,” Love said. “They do a good job of that, too, so they’re very competitive kids.”