By mixing basketball and education, the All-Pro Hoops Camp has been a huge success in Buffalo.
Just what LaMar Holt envisioned when he started the camp nine years ago.
"I just felt this was something that was needed in our community," said Holt, a Buffalo native who lives in Houston. "Whenever you can do a service for kids and be able to help someone, it gives you the drive to continue doing it each year."
The All-Pro Hoops Camp returns for a ninth year Monday in the Burt Flickinger Center on Erie Community College's city campus.
The weeklong camp for kids ages 7-17 runs from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily. The cost is $170 for the week. On-site pre-registration begins Monday at 8 a.m.
Each year, Holt brings in NBA personalities to speak to the campers. This year's guests are former Houston Rockets guard and current TNT studio analyst Kenny Smith and Reggie Dixon, a player-coach with the Harlem Globetrotters.
Dixon, who played at Niagara University in 1984-85, will visit on Tuesday. Smith, a former All-American at North Carolina and a two-time NBA champion with Houston, arrives either on Wednesday or Thursday.
This will be Smith's third appearance at the camp. Previous NBA guest speakers include Avery Johnson of the Dallas Mavericks, George Lynch of the New Orleans Hornets, Darvin Ham of the Detroit Pistons and Steve Kerr, who won three NBA titles with the Chicago Bulls and another with the San Antonio Spurs before retiring last year.
The players teach the campers various ballhandling, shooting and passing drills. Of greater importance to Holt is the players deliver the message of staying in school and making the correct decisions in life.
"When you think of Kenny Smith, here's a guy coming out of the projects of Queens, N.Y., who overcame his environment and became successful," Holt said. "He used basketball as a tool to get to the NBA level, but he also used it as a means to get an education as well. Guys like Kenny are able to communicate to kids that everyone can't make it to the pros, but everyone can get an education."
Holt, 36, also used basketball as a springboard to a college education. Son of Erie County Legislator chairman George A. Holt Jr., LaMar Holt was a standout point guard at Turner-Carroll High School in the mid-1980s. He played collegiately at Prairie View A&M in Texas, while earning bachelor's and master's degrees in mathematics.
He currently works as a math professor at the University of Houston. He is also a sports agent, which has helped him establish close relationships with pro basketball players.
"A lot of people helped me get to where I am, so this camp is a way for me to not only giving back to the community, but giving back to kids as well," Holt said.
Sponsors of the camp include Erie County Executive Joel Giambra, George Holt and all Erie County legislators, Adam's Mark Hotel, Dick's Sporting Goods and Basil Ford. For more information, call camp coordinator Pierre Howard at 465-1461.