The 2009 Paul Pierce Skills Academy was held on the campus of Brandeis University, where I am a rising senior basketball player.
Before the camp began, my coach asked me if I would help out and allowed me to spend time working to set up the camp and to watch three days of incredibly high-quality basketball.
When my coached asked me to help out with the camp, I had no idea the level of play I was going to witness. Little did I know that I'd be working for a camp that boasted some of the best high school players in the country and some very good college players, too.
I did not watch much of the college players' action because, being familiar with most of the college players already, I wanted to see more of the high school guys who I knew nothing about.
Before I talk about the play, I want to talk about what the gym looked like. Nike set up the gym almost as a Paul Pierce shrine—there were posters of him hanging from the ceiling and on the walls. It was pretty cool how the whole gym was transformed for Paul's benefit.
Now, let's get to the good stuff: the play. The camp was divided into two parts—the collegiate players and high school players. Each of the groups had two workout sessions, one in the morning, then one in the late afternoon.
This year’s collegiate participants were headlined by Greivis Vasquez of Maryland, Manny Harris of Michigan, E’Twaun Moore of Purdue and Patrick Christopher of California.
Instead of those guys, though, a rising senior out of Siena named Edwin Ubiles stole the show. A long, fluid, 6'6" small forward, Ubiles showed me more than any of the more highly touted players from the power conferences. After seeing him excel in the drills, I truly expect Ubiles to be drafted and be a productive NBA player.
At the college level, this year’s crop of talent wasn’t quite as good as last year’s. Last year, James Harden of the Oklahoma City Thunder, Tyreke Evans of the Sacramento Kings, Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors, and DeMar DeRozan of the Toronto Raptors all played at the camp.
I understand that a few players from this year’s camp will get selected in the 2010 NBA draft; but there is no chance there will be four top 10 selections.
The high school participants, though, were the cream of the high school basketball crop, headlined by the nation's top player, Harrison Barnes from Ames, Iowa. Also participating in the camp were Andre Dawkins (committed to Duke) from Chesapeake, Va., Daniel Bejarano (committed to Texas) from Phoenix, Ariz., and James Bell (committed to Villanova) from Orlando, Fla.
These talented young studs were taught what it takes to become successful at the next level. Barnes lived up to his billing as the top-ranked player in the high school class of 2010, dominating both the drills and the scrimmages.
Dawkins was also a headliner, as a certain NBA assistant coach in attendance at the camp said Dawkins could already contribute to most NBA teams. It's amazing to see just how developed these high school players are—they still have a long ways to go before reaching their potential, but already exhibit amazing physical prowess at such a young age.
At my perch working at the gym, I was able to take in most of the action from the Nike-sponsored Paul Pierce Skills Academy. From my experience, I learned valuable information regarding the game of basketball.
Usually when I watch the game I look at it from a player's perspective, but this time I also viewed it from a coaching perspective, watching the proven coaches and how they work.
Kevin Eastman of the Boston Celtics was the man in charge of the high school participants. Eastman was very energetic, and he seemed to have the undivided attention of the players.
Eastman stressed to the players that it takes more than just talent to produce on the big stage. He is a great basketball mind and exhibited it as he pointed out the details of every drill that makes an individual a better player.
They were playing a three-on-three situational game and one of the players tried to argue a call and Eastman absolutely flipped out. He told the players if someone argued a call in the Celtics' practice they would immediately be tossed out, without hesitation.
He said championship-caliber teams do not have time for that type of stuff and the coaching staff will not tolerate it.
Pierce was more involved in the camp than I would have predicted. He stressed to the players that in order to maximize potential you must go 100 percent in every drill, that it makes for better basketball if everyone on a team gives it their all on every possession.
Paul also explained to the participants that his camp was a valuable opportunity and told them that they should definitely take advantage of it. These camps are great because they allow the top players to compete against and with the top players in the country at their position.
He discussed how he did not have these types of camps to attend growing up, and talked about how he wishes he could have been afforded the opportunity to go to such a camp.
Pierce showed the players tricks that they could use that would help to benefit their games. There was one point where the players were doing a defensive denial drill and—every time—the offensive players were unable to get open enough to receive the ball.
Pierce stopped the drill and, with one quick step, showed the players how to efficiently get open.
He explained to the players that the offensive players should dictate the possession., saying that the key to his game was getting the ball where he liked and not where the defensive was trying to get him to go.
Watching Pierce's game, especially when he posts up at the foul line in order to receive the ball in his wheelhouse, it is easy to see that he means what he says about getting open. Getting the ball in the spots where Pierce knows he can produce is essential to his game.
Overall, the camp was a great experience and I was very fortunate to have been able to view it first hand. The things I liked the most about the camp was the players seemed to get along really well.
There was a great sense of good-natured camaraderie throughout the entire camp. Also, Pierce’s involvement in the camp was tremendous in the fact that he was actively working the players as well as himself.
The camp was really special, as the players got to learn first-hand from one of the NBA's greats.