REGION — For a third consecutive year, more than 100 of San Diego County’s most talented basketball players — including a number from North County — have converged on Alliant International University for three days to learn what it takes to play the game at the next level from a player who has been there.
Jared Dudley, a former Leucadia resident small forward for the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks, hosted his third annual “Jared Dudley Camp of Opportunity,” which he started with the aim of bringing the region’s best basketball players together for a dynamic camp experience.
This year was arguably his most successful installment, as a record number of kids participated in skill work and competitive games, as well as heard from Dudley and Bucks teammate Jabari Parker, who attended the last two days of camp.
“This was definitely our best one yet,” Dudley said. “The caliber of talent was the highest we’ve had, and the kids really competed.
“They also were great listeners and I feel they got the most out of every minute of the camp.”
Parker, who was having a Rookie of the Year-type season before injuring his knee, spoke to the campers on Tuesday about the importance of embracing your role on the team.
“I think it is important for kids to learn to embrace their roles, and never try to look or be bigger than their team,” said Parker, a McDonald’s All American who attended Duke University for one year. “They have to understand that at the next level they will be surrounded by other talented players, and learning how to accept a role and hone their craft is the best way to stand out.”
Parker said he was impressed with the San Diego contingent on hand, which included rising junior forward DeAndre Ayton, widely considered to be the best high school basketball prospect in the country.
“I’m excited because it’s San Diego,” Parker said. “It’s not LA or a larger market city, but the kids are just as competitive.”
Sam Eshelman, an assistant coach at Carlsbad’s Army and Navy Academy, was one of the camp’s coaches. He said the opportunity for players to learn from an NBA player is invaluable.
“It is a tremendous opportunity for North County kids to learn from someone who was once in their shoes,” Eshelman said, referring to Dudley’s North County roots. “It is a great way for them to see, up close and personal, someone who made it to the higher level of which they are aspiring to make it.
“The camp has provided them a great place to hone their skills and compete against some of the very best players in San Diego County, which doesn’t happen all the time,” Eshelman said.
Eric Pierce, a 16-year-old soon-to-be-senior at El Camino High, said he couldn’t agree more.
“I took a lot away from this camp from drills to speeches I like how they both expressed how important school, nutrition and doing what’s best for yourself is key in the game of basketball,” Pierce said. “And hearing it from players like Jared Dudley and Jabari Parker makes it that much more important, because they’re at where we want to be.”