Celebrities

Shooting with a star: Horace Grant teaches South County kids

‘I want to teach kids good techniques,’ says former NBA champion Horace Grant, who’s hosting a basketball camp at the Oceano Community Center in June.
‘I want to teach kids good techniques,’ says former NBA champion Horace Grant, who’s hosting a basketball camp at the Oceano Community Center in June.

Who wants to learn how to play basketball from a former All-Star with four National Basketball Association championship rings?

That’s what 17-year NBA player Horace Grant is asking boys and girls as he tours South County schools to promote his youth basketball camp.

Cal Poly men’s basketball coach Kevin Bromley and Mustangs players will also teach at the camp.

Grant played alongside greats Michael Jordan and Shaquille O’Neal, winning three championships with the Chicago Bulls and another with the Los Angeles Lakers.

The 6-foot-10-inch power forward was known for prescription goggles he donned after teammate Scottie Pippen dared him to wear them in a game.

Grant shot better than 50 percent in his first 10 seasons in the league and averaged double-digits in scoring and rebounding in 1994, the year he was named an All-Star.

Now Grant lives in Arroyo Grande, where he hopes to help local first- through eighth-graders play better hoops — and help out the Oceano Community Center.

The center on 19th Street is approaching its one-year anniversary. Camp promoters want to encourage more use of the fledgling facility. Barbara Carey, the community center’s executive director, said the nonprofit group — which spent about 20 years planning the center before it opened — is thrilled to be hosting the event.

“Horace has always done basketball camps as a way of giving back,” Carey said. “He’s never done this sort of thing for recognition. The only reason he’s out there promoting it now is to make sure that every child who wants to can take advantage of the opportunity.”

A helping hand

Grant grew up in Sparta, Ga., a town with only a couple thousand residents. He said he and his twin brother, Harvey, who played 11 years in the NBA, wouldn’t have been able to attend basketball camps without the help of benefactors.

Now, Grant and his trainer, Mark Pazell of Kennedy Club Fitness, are lining up local businesses and individuals to sponsor children who cannot afford the $250 camp fee.

They’ll learn basketball fundamentals, good nutritional habits and life lessons — including resiliency after losing and how to maintain a good attitude.

Grant’s wife, who had family on the Central Coast, encouraged him to settle in the area after his retirement from the NBA in 2004. While taken aback initially by the rural life of cows, pastures and a sparse population, Grant says he now loves it here. Besides temperate weather and fine wine, it’s a good place to raise his two daughters, ages 2 and 9, he said.

Focus on fundamentals

“I want to teach kids good techniques,” Grant said of how he hopes to teach fundamental skills. “Now, you see so much passing behind the back and crazy shots and things of that nature.”

“This is a great facility, and there are a lot of underprivileged kids in the area,” he added. “This is an opportunity to give back to a special place.”

Students will also have fun, said Pazell of Kennedy Fitness Club.

“My goal is to have kids from all walks of life,” he said. “I want them to come away from this saying ‘Horace is a great freakin’ guy’ and ‘I just got dunked on.’ ”

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