ATLANTA – In its second installment of the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) Top 50 Basketball Camp, the ambassadors of the organization set the tone from the jump.

Gathered at Clark Atlanta University’s Thomas W. Cole Research Center on Friday evening for orientation and dinner, NBPA coaches posed questions as thought exercises to get the student-athletes’ minds prepared for this weekend’s on-court activities, instruction and scrimmages.

On hand were former NBA players such as Purvis Short, who was drafted fifth overall in the 1978 draft by Golden State Warriors and scored over 14,000 career points. There was Shawn Respert, an eighth overall draft choice in 1995 by the Portland Trailblazers.

New to the fray was Gerald Wilkins, selected 47th overall by the New York Knicks in the 1985 draft and was nicknamed the “Jordan Stopper” for his tenacious defense against NBA great Michael Jordan. Additionally, Gerald’s son Damien, was also a coach and offered his story of making an alternate path to an NBA career after going undrafted. Eventually, he would keep working until he found a home with the former Seattle Supersonics (now Oklahoma City Thunder franchise) in the 2004 season.

Despite all traversing different paths to reach their ultimate desired destination of breaking into the league, each could offer their unique wisdom on how to get there.

Addressing the campers, the former NBA players/coaches set expectations for the camp, what it entails, how they stand to benefit and also offered tips on what NBA scouts that would be in attendance this weekend would be looking for in a player.

Respert posed questions such as, “How will you respond to adversity when you’re not “on” because you won’t be “on” all the time?”

More questions followed: “What kind of teammate are you?” “How will you respond if a teammate misses a shot that you set up for him? “What do the best players have that others do not?” “How will you react if you don’t get the ball on offense?”

Short stressed the importance of doing what it takes to be a professional—on and off the court—because that’s what many franchises are looking for in a player these days when they are offering multi-million-dollar contracts to players. With a higher financial commitment, comes a higher risk for evaluators, scouts and general managers of teams. As a developmental tool, the focus on character would be essential throughout the camp and as they embark on their lives journeys.

Another benefit of the camp discussed how it acts as a fraternity for those who have met on these courts—whether they were receiving instruction from a former NBA player-coach or from their counterparts in the other conference.

“This is a fraternity when you can connect with one another down the road whether on the basketball court or not,” Short said. “We are building something bigger here.”

Gerald Wilkins shared the story of how his son Damien wanted to follow in his footsteps and reach the NBA level someday. When he wasn’t drafted, he told him that if he wanted to defend his dream, he would have to learn how to play defense. Wilkins went on to say that fitting a team need is what can help you realize your goal.

“You may not be shooting the ball. You may have to set that screen, just grab that rebound or block that shot. What will you do to stand out and help your team win?”

The camp, which ran July 27-29 on the campuses of Morehouse College and Clark Atlanta, also aimed to cultivate and create coaching and talent pipelines for current and retired NBA players exploring the transition into careers in intercollegiate athletics.

“The Conference is excited about the continued partnership with the NBPA and the SIAC to put on the Top 50 camp,” said SWAC Interim Commissioner Edgar Gantt.

“This camp allows our men’s basketball student-athletes the opportunity to gain valuable knowledge of the game of basketball at the highest level. The camp also offers lifelong educational opportunities that campers can take with them to be positive impactful leaders on campus, in their communities and most important in life.”

ABOUT THE NBPA

The National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) is the union for current professional basketball players in the National Basketball Association (NBA). Established in 1954, the NBPA’s mission is to ensure that the rights of NBA players are protected and that every conceivable measure is taken to assist players in maximizing their opportunities and achieving their goals -- on and off the court.

The NBPA advocates on behalf of the best interests of all NBA players, including the negotiation of collective bargaining agreements, the filing of grievances on behalf of the players, or counseling players on benefits, educational and post-NBA career opportunities.

In addition, the NBPA provides a forum for players to participate in union activities -- from executive leadership roles, to team representative positions, global community outreach initiatives. The NBPA offers each NBA player the opportunity to get involved in the democratic institution that was created for, continues to exist for and is run by them.