For many of the basketball players in North County, the trip in late June to Alliant International University has become an annual rite of passage.
There, they converge with more than 100 of the top youth basketball players in San Diego County for three days of training, competition and mentoring at the Jared Dudley Elite Skills Academy.
The camp, named after Leucadia native and NBA veteran Jared Dudley, has become a staple in San Diego over the past five years, giving prep ballplayers the opportunity to learn from Dudley and a phalanx of NBA veterans who speak to campers over the three days.
For Carter Plousha, a junior at Carlsbad High School, the camp helps him to stay focused on his goals of playing college basketball.
“I think hearing from NBA players like Jared and Devin Booker really give you the tools and the advice you need to make it, because you know they’ve made it too,” he said.
Carter referred to Devin Booker, the 20-year-old star shooting guard of the Phoenix Suns — Dudley’s teammate — who was the keynote speaker of the camp. Speaking to campers on Tuesday, Booker told the 160 players and guests his story of how he worked to become one of the top high school basketball players in the country, despite being a relative unknown until his sophomore year.
Booker famously scored 70 points in a game against the Boston Celtics this year.
“I stayed in the gym and I worked hard, and I was fortunate enough to have a father who played overseas who gave me the tips to the game, and I listened to every word,” Booker said.
Booker was not the only NBA player or coach to speak to the players. Tyler Ulis, who also plays for the Phoenix Suns, and Utah Jazz wing Gordon Hayward — who played in his first NBA All-Star Game this season — also gave campers advice and tips on how to achieve their goals.
“The first thing I will tell you is to dream big,” Hayward said. “The second thing I will tell you is to set goals. The final thing I say is to work hard.”
Dudley, 31, also imparted his experience and words of wisdom each day of the three-day camp. Wheeling himself around on a scooter following surgery on his foot, the 6-foot-7 forward, who is entering into his 10th season in the NBA, told players to surround themselves with positive influences and to take care of their bodies and be scholars in the classroom, as well as to embrace their respective roles on their teams.
“I always feel it is my duty to give back to the kids in San Diego, because I was in their position not so long ago,” Dudley said. “I’ve learned so much over my career, and now I am in a position to impart some of these lessons to the next generation of players coming up in our region, and I’m excited about their potential.”
Keavie Love, a 14-year-old who will be starting high school at El Camino in the fall, said that his biggest takeaway from the camp is learning what it takes to achieve the goal of playing at the next level.
“I think the biggest thing for me is the work ethic, we had NBA players tell us how they had to wake up at 6 a.m. to get shots up or how they were in the gym early in order to get better,” Keavie said.
“I think that is the thing I will take away from the camp the most, just that work ethic.”