Ibaka Injects Confidence, Laughter Into Thunder Camp

If Serge Ibaka showed one thing to the participants at this week’s Thunder Youth Basketball Camp, presented by Cox, it was the importance of confidence.

Known for his ability to block shots, the Thunder player stood directly under the hoop at one point, fitted the net around his head, put his arms out and stayed put as several campers tried to get a shot in the basket.

Perhaps he also showed them the importance of a sense of humor.

On Tuesday, Ibaka spent the afternoon with participants in the Thunder’s second summer basketball camp for 2011, answering their questions, coaching them through drills and even signing their camp T-shirts.

The 103 campers at this week’s clinic generally reacted to Ibaka’s visit in one of two ways – either with excitement or intimidation. A few watched the 6-foot-10 Ibaka block their shots and ran to the back of the line with both fists pumping, while others nearly froze at the prospect of shooting over the Thunder forward. Some had a light in their eyes and smiles on their faces as they went up for their autograph, while many couldn’t overcome their nerves enough to look at Ibaka, even as he signed their shirts.

Ibaka, however, worked through the crowd of children with the same self-assurance fans see when he takes the court at the OKC Arena, regardless of the kids’ reaction to him.

If campers didn’t block out with their arms spread wide, he corrected them; with one younger child, he even turned the tables and blocked the kid out to show how it’s done.

He laughed and yelled in excitement when he’d block a shot or dunk over even the smallest of children.

When one group practiced a drill of varying defensive positions, Ibaka led them so smoothly from one stance to the next that some couldn’t keep up with his moves.

“It’s great for kids to do something like the camps because I remember when I was (growing up in) Congo, we’d never see this (kind of opportunity),” Ibaka said. “I think it’s great for the kids, especially when they love basketball, for their future it’s really important to do something like (this).”

Confidence tends to draw some people in and daunt others. Serge Ibaka’s visit to Tuesday’s Thunder Youth Basketball Camp was a case study in how that works. But no matter how they reacted in his presence – whether with slacked jaws or broad smiles – every camper paid close attention to Ibaka.

They listened to each word of his answers to their questions. They watched with fascination as his long arms reached to defend their shots. They looked at him intently if he bent over to give them advice during drills. And they crowded magnetically around him into the group huddle that concluded each skills station.

They may not all have known his name or his position with the Thunder, but they could tell he was someone to watch.

Thunder Youth Basketball Camps are presented by Cox. This week marks the second of six week-long summer camp sessions for kids ages 5-16. For more information on Thunder Youth Basketball or to register for one of the remaining camps, CLICK HERE.