Kevin Durant Hosts Camp in Norman

NORMAN -- Last week Kevin Durant was playing in the NBA Finals, and next week he’ll be in Las Vegas with Team USA preparing for the Olympics. On Wednesday and Thursday, he hosted the Kevin Durant Basketball ProCamp in Norman.

In between those two times, however, Durant still showed how much he cares about the Oklahoma City community and the area that has welcomed him and his Thunder teammates with open arms ever since the team arrived in Oklahoma four years ago. The mutual respect and love the Thunder has with its city is public and emphatic, so much so that Durant stood up for his team and city even after the Thunder lost in the Finals. “I wouldn't want to play for any other city,” Durant said after the Thunder’s last NBA Finals game.

Because of the pride that Durant has for Oklahoma City, he decided to bring his annual summer camp to the area, now basing it out of the University of Oklahoma’s Huston Huffman Center. After taking pictures with and signing autographs for every single camper, Durant showed off his shooting skills for the entire group then took the microphone and addressed the campers.

“This is always been one of the highlights of my summer, coming in here and help teach you guys the game of basketball,” Durant said to the 7-to-11 year olds in attendance. “I’m so excited to get this opportunity every summer. It’s getting bigger and bigger… I look forward to seeing you playing for the rest of the day and competing.”

Durant utilizes Pro Camps, a company based out of Cincinnati, to help organize and run the type of camp that he wants Oklahomans to benefit from and use to learn the game of basketball. With eight basketball courts and 460 campers aged 7-to-18 split over two different sessions, The CEO of Pro Camps, Gregg Darbyshire explained the major factors that Durant hopes his campers take away from the two days- worth of sessions.

“We are simply helping Kevin with his camp,” Darbyshire said. “It’s his camp but we’ll really work on things that are important to him. The fundamentals of the game, we’ll talk about shooting, ball-handling… Defense, rebounding, all the aspects. Then we’ll let them compete.”

Parents have brought their children from all over Oklahoma to come to Durant’s camp, which last year had a waiting list just as long as the number of campers that were able to be enrolled. In addition, 14 different states and a handful of countries were represented among the campers.

Whether they are high school players looking to hone their skills or a youngster like nine-year old Brayden Smith who was taking part in his first basketball camp, each camper had the opportunity to get better during the two days. And also to see their Thunder heroes like Durant and teammates Daequan Cook and Kendrick Perkins, who stopped by on Wednesday.

“He (Brayden) loves it,” Brayden’s father Sean Smith said. “It’s pretty awesome of them to take time out to do it. They could be sitting on the beach or something. It’s pretty cool.”

In keeping with the theme of giving back and investing in Oklahoma, Durant is aided by coaches from throughout the area, be it from high schools or small colleges. Having extra hands to help guide the hundreds of campers through drills allows Durant to go from station to station and check in on everyone. Sometimes, Durant will even grab the microphone and commentate as the campers play five-on-five games against one another.

“Kevin is a very hands-on guy,” Darbyshire, who has worked with Durant since 2008, said. “He’s just first class. What I like about Kevin is that he hasn’t changed from his rookie year to now. The success he’s had, I think he understands the importance of giving back and being a role model for kids.”

Most of all, Durant simply wants to only increase and deepen the connection between himself and his Thunder teammates with the Oklahoma City region and fan base. He has already seen the way the Thunder has galvanized the area, and with his camp, Durant enjoys the opportunity to give back to the local fans who have supported the team every day for each of the past four seasons.

“That’s one of the most important things with me, how well this city has come together since we got here,” Durant said last Saturday. “To bring so many people together, to have so many people supporting us is just a blessing… It’s a blessing to play for such a great city and hopefully I’ll be here for as long as I can.”