After 10 years of teaching local kids basketball skills and life lessons, the Stars of Tomorrow basketball camp has a lot to celebrate. More than 1000 boys and girls from Blount County have had the opportunity to train with professional athletes, some of whom are locals themselves. This year’s camp was held on July 31 and Aug. 1 at Everett Recreation Center.
The only admission fee required of the young athletes is that they do a good deed for someone else. In exchange for this, they receive basketball training from world-class athletes and coaches as well as lunch, a camp t-shirt and a basketball.
The Stars of Tomorrow camp was organized in 1999 by Loren Riddick of United Capital Mortgage, who played college basketball at ETSU, and former teammates and friends. Riddick graduated from William Blount High School in 1987, where he was a star player, and then went on graduate from ETSU in 1992.
“I’m confident that there is no camp in the country that had better world-class instruction that our kids had this year,” says Riddick. “Out of the total of 12 coaches, we had almost 30 NCAA championship rings represented, former NBA and pro players, the 1991 NCAA Slam Dunk Champion, a national ladies champion, thousands and thousands of points, rebounds, and assist leaders and much more! Even though these guys could have been paid a huge amount of money for their time and experience, they didn’t take a dime….all out of the goodness of their heart,” said Riddick.
At ETSU, Riddick was the first walk-on player to make the varsity team in nine years. During that time, ETSU was ranked ninth and had four straight NCAA tournament appearances, almost unheard-of for a school of its size. "Mainly guarded the bench," says Riddick. "We were ranked ninth in the nation. I got to go to the NCAA tournament, and eight of the 12 players went on to pro careers, including two of them who went to the Harlem Globetrotters and one who went into the NBA."
The friends Riddick made at ETSU have been very involved in his Stars of Tomorrow camp. Among them are many members of this year’s coaching team, including Keith “Mister” Jennings, who has played for the Golden State Warriors, the Denver Nuggets, and professionally in Europe. Rodney English has played in Europe and for the Harlem Globetrotters. Greg Dennis has played professionally in Europe and for the Boston Celtics. Calvin Talford, the 1991-92 NCAA Slam Dunk Champion from ETSU, also went on to play professionally in Europe. Trazel Silvers has played professionally in Europe and for the Globetrotters.
“It was great to see what Loren has done in his hometown for the kids, being a part of this and supporting a dear friend and former teammate is a true honor,” said Keith “Mister” Jennings. In a recent Sports Illustrated article that ranked the all-time best men’s and women’s basketball players by height, Jennings was second only to Spud Webb out of all 5’7” players.
Making special appearances at the camp were current UT basketball players Wayne Chism, a senior, and redshirt sophomore Cait McMahan, a Maryville native and graduate of Heritage.
Riddick and his fellow coaches enjoy working with the kids, many of whom come back for 4 or 5 years of camps, and are now in high school or college. “I feel weird that I get more out of it than they do,” he says. “They let me know they appreciate it. I like doing that. I’ve got a passion to coach basketball, and we all know unless you’re Bruce Pearl, you’re not paying bills on a coach’s salary,” he said. “It’s giving back and sowing good seeds. I love it.”
Riddick insists that the camp could not take place without its sponsors, many of whom have been involved for years. This year’s sponsors include Blount Today, Mountaineer Auto Imports, Recreation and Parks Discovery, Chik-Fil-A, Papa John’s, First Tennessee Bank, Independence Title, Missi Riddick of Price and Associates Realty Executives, Big Lots, Flanigan and Son Roofing, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Holiday Inn Express, the Alcoa O’Charley’s, Exxon EZ Stop and Pepsi, Aleetha Pearce Insurance Agency, and the Loren Riddick Team at United Capital Mortgage.
For more information or to register, visit www.1loren.com or contact Loren Riddick at 865-934-1400.