By Marcus Shockley
This gym is not full of cheering fans, with an announcer chiming in over the loudspeaker with a play by play.
As the mass of bodies push each other, literally across the gym floor, Chris Paul’s purple workout shirt stands out among the wrestling players. The drill is to grab your opponent by the shoulders and try to push him across the gym. The problem of course, is that he’s trying to stop you.
It’s an exercise is power, will and endurance. It’s exhausting.
And it’s only the beginning.
The players crowd the floor from one side to the other, strong players who are used to the power needed to play college basketball and elite high school basketball. This drill of exertion is one of the first of the Chris Paul Elite Guard Camp, a camp put together by NBA star point guard Paul and Position Sports to focus on one clear objective: build better point guards.
The drills are completely focused on being a point guard, with wave after wave of intensive ball handling drills. The coaches have split the gym into three floors, with high school players taking up two courts and college players taking up the other. The coaches shout the drills – two ball dribble around the cones, then two ball dribble with one ball in a behind the back move around the cones, and so on. The drills are rapid fire, changing every couple of minutes. The players grunt and push themselves, trying to master each intensive set of instructions.
Chris throws himself into the camp, which takes place in his hometown of Winston-Salem, and engages in the drills along with the players. As he works on one handed catch-and-pass drills with incoming UNC freshman Harrison Barnes, you would not know that Chris Paul is the big star that all of the players admire. Tonight, he’s more than a mentor, more than a star player to emulate.
Tonight, he’s a teammate.
The camp is filled with some of the top talent in both the college ranks and high school, with Duke stars Kyle Singler, Nolan Smith and incoming transfer Seth Curry all working their way through the drills. Kyle Singler and Harrison Barnes are forwards taking on a point guard skills camp, an attempt to constantly improve and push themselves. Singler works doggedly through the drills, exerting an effort that would set an example to the high school players just across the gym – if they weren’t so focused on surviving the drills themselves.
Scoop Jardine is in attendance along with fellow Syracuse guard Brandon Triche. Following the first workout, Jardine would tell his Twitter followers that the camp was ‘hard as hell’.
It’s not an understatement.
Kemba Walker of UConn, incoming freshman point guard Kendall Marshall of UNC, and Wake Forest rising sophomores Ari Stewart and CJ Harris are also going through the camp, along with Chris Wright of Georgetown, Durand Scott of Miami and several more.
For the high schoolers, the drills are intended to show them how to master their ball handling skills and how an elite guard positions and defends, which is key for power players like Dezmine Wells, a 6’4″ small forward from the class of 2011. Dezmine is taking on smaller, sometimes quicker players, but he works like mad, pouring himself into every drill. He uses his size to defend, as guard Marquis Rankin gets an inside step and flashes under him, he quickly adjusts in midair and cleanly blocks the ball at the last second.
Later, as Dezmine pulls off a great jab step and blasts past his defender, he turns his head to rafters and screams angrily in obvious frustration as his shot clangs off the rim. The coaches rush in and tell him emphatically, “There was nothing wrong with that play! You did everything right!” It’s a good teaching moment. The coaches have been harping on the players for not following instructions all night, but Dezmine is obviously paying attention. He might not be getting the result he wants, but he is listening. And that makes coaches happy.
There are so many talented guards in the camp, such as rising phenom Rodney Purvis (PG, 6’3″, 2013), Jabari Brown (G, 6’3″, 2011) and Jamal Branch (PG, 6’3″, 2011). Bishop Daniels (PG, 6’2″, 2011) does extremely well in the ball handling drills, and PJ Hairston (SG/SF, 6’5″, 2011), another UNC commit, works his size to make up ground against the guards.
Quinn Cook (PG, 6’1″, 2011), sits out on the sidelines with a tweaked ankle. “I hurt it last night in a summer league game,” he says, but he sits with ice on it, hoping to participate the next day.
At the end of the first night’s workout, the players load up on a bus and head back to the hotel, ready to collapse. Chris Paul is giving them a hard training in being an elite NBA point guard, and these players are ready for the challenge.