Young Campers Get a Professional Assist

Shane Kline-Ruminski's basketball career has taken him from the Mid-American Conference to MTV.
- Originally written in July 2005 -

All Cavalier camps are not created equal. One visit to the National Basketball Academy’s camp will clear that point right up.

There are five camps -- two overnight, including one at Lake Erie College for boys and girls -- [there are now 12 camps as of April 2006] that run over the summer. One already took place at Ursuline College in Pepper Pike. The other three are running concurrently last week in Mentor, Medina and Rocky River. One takes place this week in Euclid.

This year, National Basketball Academy set themselves apart by broadcasting camp activity live over the internet at the aforementioned Lake Erie overnight. Next year, they hope to do this at ALL Cavaliers camps, clinics and events.

And recently, a woman from Italy who spends her summers in Cleveland told tNBA that she was so impressed with the Cavaliers Camp her child attended that she will have the Club where their team plays in Italy to fly the instructors over to run programs for them over there.

The National Basketball Academy was founded by two men, Mike Heines and Shane Kline-Ruminski. Mike handles the business and Shane handles the basketball end. And watching him run a tight ship, as we did when visited him at the Mentor Heisley Racquet and Fitness Club, it’s easy to see why he commands so much respect from the kids as well has his instructors.

Kline-Ruminski has a unique basketball background that spans from the Mid-American Conference to MTV.

A star at West Geauge, where his teams went 72-9, Kline-Ruminski then moved on to Bowling Green State University, where he was named Freshman of the Year, was a two-time All-MAC performer and, as a senior, led the nation in field goal percentage. (North Carolina’s Rasheed Wallace finished third.)

Though he drew interest from some NBA teams, Kline-Ruminski instead took the guaranteed money of playing overseas where his travails led him to Belgium, Turkey, Israel, Portugal and France. Following a knee injury and the tragic events of September 11, he returned to the states. But basketball was still foremost in his mind.

Kline-Ruminski returned home and began working with NBA players such as Nuggets power forward Nene and Suns point guard Leandro Barbosa. He also trained Bruno Sundov and played some summer hoops with Cavaliers like Zydrunas Ilgauskas.

A couple years ago, the former Falcon even ventured into the world of pop culture, starring on the MTV show, “Made,” which transforms teen caterpillars in teen butterflies. Kline-Ruminski’s job was to turn a geek into a varsity basketball player. (“I think he’s still a geek,” Shane laughed.) took some time to check out the National Basketball Academy’s camp and talk to the man behind the whistle as he ran the kids through a fairly competitive game of five-on-five.

So how did the National Basketball Academy get started?
Shane Kline-Ruminski:
I met a guy named Mike Heines, who I took to a Nuggets game. We had floor seats. He said, ‘You’re great with NBA players, you’re great with my son in training, why don’t you do this as a business.’ So we started the National Basketball Academy two years ago in June. And it’s just taken off.

What’s your association with the Cavaliers been like?
This is our first year with the Cavaliers. We feel very fortunate to be partnered with the Cavaliers and we just signed a five-year contract.

We’re all basketball. We don’t do any other sport. I don’t know any other sport. I don’t know anything but basketball, whether it’s working with young kids or high school kids or NBA players. I know how to work with people and how to relate the game of basketball to them in an exciting atmosphere. And I think the Cavaliers and we will have a terrific partnership. They’re ready to take off with their youth programs and we know how to do it, so it’s just a great partnership there.

What do you want kids to take from tNBA camps?
When we run Cavaliers camps my main goal is to focus on three things: One, is that the kids learn and get better in the week that they’re at camp. Two, when they leave this camp, they know exactly what to do when they go home. They know what to work on and they have a plan to get better that summer. And three, to have a great time.

And we have accomplished those goals at every camp this summer. When the kids leave, they get a plan on things to work on to get better at their game. It’s basically the same things the Cavaliers are working on in practices. The kids take this plan home and they learn from it.

Those are my three main goals and I can honestly say that every kid has gotten that. Every kid walks out of here with a Cavaliers excitement and a Cavaliers feel and they get a Cavaliers ticket. They walk away with bobbleheads and posters and all kinds of stuff. It’s just an exciting time for them and us.

Tell us about some of your instructors.
Well, when we do individual and small group training, in order to be an instructor in one of those groups, you have to have been a college basketball player. Or you will be one. Because anyone can play high school basketball.

I have guys that have played high level college basketball, who have been head coaches at Division II level, like Steve Fleming, who have come back and work with us, which has been great. And there's Steve Vega, who averaged 20 ppg at Clarkson University and has trained guys like God Shamgod.

If you’re at this camp, you’ll see Alex Sullivan, for example, who will be a Division I basketball player, who has his first three letters from Indiana, Penn State and Notre Dame. He’s a young guy so kids can relate to him and say, ‘I’m kind of almost his age.’ And when he works with the kids and does demonstrations they say: ‘Wow, I want to be just like him.’ So he’s a great role model.

We have a bunch of high school and college players that were All-Stars at “Five-Star” this year and they’re young enough that kids can really relate to them. They can’t relate to me. I’m some old guy who used to play professional basketball.

These high school guys are great kids and great players and the (campers) see that with some hard work they can be these guys in a few years. We only hire people who understand basketball and can work with kids. I mean you can step on the floor – and I’ve seen this a thousand times, even in the NBA – and if you can’t relate to a kid, good luck trying to teach him. Because kids won’t listen to you. You have to be able to relate to them and know what you’re talking about and all my guys know how to do that.

A lot of basketball camps don’t separate the boys from the girls but yours does. Why do you do that?
I’ve always done that. But we might look into changing that. I think the girls’ game is a little different from the boys’ game. I think the girls listen more than the boys. Boys are more chaotic, running around like crazy and the girls, they’re energetic, but they want to listen.

I think the better girls want to go with the boys and we allow that. If you’re a girl who wants to run with the boys, great! It’s a good opportunity and they want to get better.

What is the age range for the kids and how do you break that down?
This camp goes from kids age 8 through 15. But we break it up by skill level. I have some kids in fourth or fifth grade who want to play with ninth graders because they want to be challenged to get better. It’s all based on skill level once you get here. It’s all about teaching.

We play five-on-five and we play three-on-three because you need that, but we break it down. If you can’t catch or be a triple-threat or pivot and do all that kind of stuff, you’re not going to be a good player. So we start with that every day.

We do fundamental station work and there are five stations every day: there’s Eric Snow ball-handling, Zydrunas Ilgauskas post moves, Mark Price shooting, the Larry Hughes defensive station, and LeBron James offensive moves. So we break it down like that every day. Because if you can’t handle the ball, you can’t play. So on Eric Snow’s ball-handling station, kids are sweating like crazy when they come out of that because they’re working so hard on their handles.

So we definitely teach them the fundamentals, but then they go five-on-five because you have to have fun, too. It’s a perfect mixture of learning the game and at the same time having a lot of fun. And I think if you ask any of the kids or any of the parents, they’ll tell you the same thing: that the kids have a great time at camp yet when they leave, they’ve learned. And that’s what it’s all about.

If I just came out here and watched them play five-on-five, they wouldn’t learn anything. They’d have fun, but they wouldn’t learn. My job is to teach the kids, give them the Cavaliers feel and the Cavaliers experience and when they walk out of here, they’ve had so much fun and learned so much that they can’t wait to come back next year.