Carlos Boozer works with coach George Houston at his basketball camp last August at the Juneau-Douglas High School gym. (Nolin Ainsworth | Juneau Empire File)

Carlos Boozer works with coach George Houston at his basketball camp last August at the Juneau-Douglas High School gym. (Nolin Ainsworth | Juneau Empire File)

Boozer to headline basketball camp

NBA star says camp will be an annual event

Juneau’s brightest basketball star is coming back to his hometown for the second consecutive year to host the Carlos Boozer Basketball Camp.

Boozer, 36, in a phone interview with the Empire on Thursday, said he’s looking forward to returning to his roots.

“It’s going to be annual,” said Boozer from Boston, where’s he playing in a professional 3-on-3 basketball league (BIG3).

“Really excited to be able to give back to my community. The community of Juneau was there for me at an early age so I wanted to come back and teach these kids some of the stuff I learned along the way on my basketball journey,” he added.

The camp, which goes from Monday through Friday at the Juneau-Douglas High School gym, will feature friends and basketball trainers tied with the 1999 JDHS graduate and two-time NBA All-Star, like former teammate Nate Robinson. Jason Williams, an All-American at Duke University and the No. 2 overall pick in the 2002 NBA draft, is also planning on attending the camp. Boozer said Williams’ wife is pregnant with the couple’s child and is on standby for attending camp.

“Obviously bringing a new family member into the world is a different thing so we’ll see how that plays out,” Boozer said.

Speaking of Robinson, Boozer said, “He’s a guy that when he walks into a room, he looks like everybody else. What I mean by that is he’s 5-8, he’s not a giant in stature and he was able to play in the NBA for 10 years, three-time NBA dunk champ and he inspires people because he’s no taller than you are. I mean, you might be the same height as him but his heart and his desire, his passion and his hard work for the game of basketball led him to the mountaintop.”

The only other people Boozer wishes he could bring along are his three sons, Carmani, 12, and twins Cameron and Cayden, 11. The boys, like their pops, have big dreams in sports are playing on competitive baseball teams the week of camp.

Boozer said spending more time with his family was one of the biggest reasons he retired last winter from the NBA after 13 years in the league. After getting drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2002, the power forward enjoyed stints with four different teams over a 13-year career.

“The biggest thing for me was spending more time with my kids,” Boozer said. “They’re at that age now where they’re getting older, they’re in middle school now, they’re almost in high school. I wanted to be more present and be around them more and get a chance to help shape them.”

Boozer said it hasn’t been easy walking away from the game he started playing when he was 4 years old.

“I miss the guys, I miss the competition, especially when the playoffs come,” Boozer said. “I was very fortunate to be able to be in the playoffs most of my career, (most) every year. When the playoffs come, it’s one of the best times to be a professional athlete because all the chips are on the table, everything is on the line. You get a chance to put your best group against the other team’s best group. It’s like a chess game.”

JDHS boys basketball coach Robert Casperson knows how much Boozer means to the community — and the state — and coordinated the camp with him. The two played one year in high school together, in 1996, when Casperson was a senior and Boozer just a freshman.

“I love to tell people that I used to be able to be able to beat him one-on-one,” Casperson said.

Casperson said about 150 youth attended the camp last summer and he expects even more to come this year. He’s trying to get as many of his high school players as possible to attend.

“It’s a very exciting time for Juneau basketball and just our community in general, to have NBA stars come to our town,” Casperson said, speaking of Boozer and Robinson. “We’ve never had this level of talent overall come in to coach our kids. I just got an email today about a girl from Kodiak that’s planning on coming. It’s a statewide thing and we’re trying to expand it and have this opportunity in Juneau for the entire state.”

To sign up for the camp or for more information, go to carlosboozerbasketballcamp.com. The camp is open for ages 5-18 and costs $175.

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