ROCHESTER — As Mayor Robert Duffy prepared to ceremonially tip off a ball to open the Second Annual Summer Basketball Camp in St. Andrew Church’s parking lot, someone in the crowd yelled, “We want to see you dunk one, mayor!”
“You’ll wait a long time,” Duffy said with a laugh. “I’m retired.”
On a more serious note, the mayor credited the 15 volunteers who put on the camp for serving youngsters.
“I grew up in the city and attended basketball camps in the summer,” he said. “This is just a great thing. It demonstrates one more example of the church impacting young lives in a positive manner.”
The camp took place from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. July 10-14, and drew dozens of children and teenagers between the ages of 8 and 18 eager to sharpen their basketball skills under the tutelage of Demond Stewart, a guard with the Rochester RazorSharks, which won the American Basketball Association’s championship this year. Stewart, a graduate of Greece Olympia High School and Niagara University, also is a veteran of European professional basketball and averaged 18.3 points per game for the RazorSharks in their inaugural 2005-06 season.
Stewart was a serious but gentle taskmaster with his young charges, who stood in a large circle around him before being led in running drills and other exercises. Stewart told the youngsters that they should appreciate the free camp and the volunteers who made it possible. He added that he wouldn’t tolerate foul language, use of the “N” word, fighting or disrespect.
“We’re just here to have a good time,” he said. The youngsters seemed to get the message, following the directions shouted out by Stewart, and practicing their shooting, passing and dribbling skills.
“I’m just giving back to the kids,” Stewart said later. “It gives them something to do instead of just hanging out.” He added that some of the children came from single-parent homes where they have to shoulder caretaking duties at an early age. “They can come to this camp and just relax,” he added. He also noted that he always thrived in a structured situation and that children flourish when given direction.
“You’ve got to have structure, organization and teamwork,” he said.
Stewart’s mother-in-law, Amy Dorscheid, is youth minister for St. Andrew and Church of the Annunciation. She noted that she organized the basketball camp last summer as part of the churches’ ongoing efforts to provide services for the city’s young people.
“It was a dream of mine to do something for the neighborhood,” she said, noting that the basketball camp is a family affair, with her daughter, Annette, Demond’s wife and a registered nurse, providing any needed medical care to the young players. Annette noted, however, that she wasn’t too worried about anything bad happening to any of the camp participants, given the lack of injuries last summer.
“I think I had maybe like a jammed finger, and somebody had a blister, and that was it,” she said with a chuckle. “They’re pretty tough kids.”
Assisting Stewart in his efforts was John Mobley, who attended Greece Arcadia High School and who played professional basketball in Austria. Like Stewart, Mobley saw his volunteering at the camp as a way to set a positive example for the young people attending.
“Get your grades up — that’s the first thing I tell everybody,” he said, pointing out that schools generally won’t allow students to play basketball if they’re slacking on their classroom work. He added that there’s also a practical reason behind teaching young people not to swear when they’re playing ball — it means referees won’t be as hard on them during a game.
“If you’re trash-talking, sometimes the ref thinks you’re arrogant or you’re just trying to start trouble,” he said.
During a lunch break, the children attending the camp seemed to be enjoying themselves. Eric Rosario, 12, said he learned about the camp when he was riding his bike by the church and someone handed him a flier about it. Jesus Rodriguez, 17, noted he was happy to have won that day’s two-on-two championship. Christopher Mark, 9, said his aunt had told him about the camp and added that he was glad he came.
“You get to play with other kids, and you get to know other kids better and see different faces and get out of the house,” he said.
Alex Douglas, also 9, said he can get bored playing video games at home, so it was nice to get outside and play. He added that he was improving his outside shot during the camp.
Meanwhile, Rashad Hughes, 13, also said he was trying to escape the video-game world and sharpen his playing skills. His friend, John Wallace, 13, acknowledged he had basketball in his blood. When pressed about his name, the boy quietly stated that his father is John Wallace, who played on the storied 1996 Syracuse Orangemen team that played in the national championship game against Kentucky and who went on to play for several years in the NBA.
John’s mother, Michelle Bolger of Greece, said her son loved the St. Andrew camp.
“It’s challenging, and he likes challenges,” she said.
Father Michael A. Mayer, pastor of both St. Andrew and Annunciation, said the camp was an example of church outreach.
“We’re not serving ourselves, but serving the people in the neighborhood,” he said.