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7/31/2008 10:00 AM
G Mike Conley Jr  (United States)
Buckeye Stars Basketball Camp: Conley offers words of encouragement
Former OSU players the main attraction at camp
Thursday,  July 31, 2008 3:27 AM
<p>Mike Conley Jr. told campers they can achieve anything with persistence and dedication.</p>
Courtney Hergesheimer Dispatch

Mike Conley Jr. told campers they can achieve anything with persistence and dedication.

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Mike Conley Jr. bent over in front of a dozen campers almost as tall as he is and dribbled a basketball around and between his legs, in a figure-8. All the while, he kept his eyes on them.

They tried to be like Mike, but it wasn't easy. When they took their eyes off the ball, it often hit their feet and rolled away.

Conley told them the only way to keep that from happening was to practice the drill every day. "Then," he said, "you can play basketball and not worry about dribbling the basketball out of bounds."

Later, the former Ohio State point guard said he still does the drill every day as a pro with the Memphis Grizzlies of the NBA.

"Even though I can do it in my sleep, I feel I don't want to not do it and then lose it or something," he said. "I don't want to lose something I've worked so hard on."

That was part of his message to 200 kids, ages 7 to 18, attending the Buckeye Stars Basketball Camp, a three-day affair at Worthington Kilbourne High School. It features Ohio State's three first-round NBA draft picks last year: Greg Oden on Tuesday, Conley yesterday and Daequan Cook today.

"Always remember to never give up and keep trying hard," said Daniel Flores, 11, of Columbus, one of 50 campers sponsored through the Boys and Girls Clubs of Columbus.

Conley spent three hours at the camp getting his picture taken with the youth, autographing the photographs and helping coaches lead drills.

"I already ran a camp down in Memphis with (Grizzlies teammate) Rudy Gay and I had to do one in Ohio and give back to the kids," said Conley, whose No. 1 Ohio State jersey was worn by more campers than any other. "I was in the same position they're in not too long ago. I really appreciated it when I was a kid and I want them to have the same kind of opportunity."

Conley was a regular at former Arkansas coach Nolan Richardson's camp in Fayetteville, Ark., where Conley lived before moving to Indianapolis in sixth grade.

"It was a weeklong camp and I didn't miss a day," he said.

Not that he didn't want to.

"My mom was always around me preaching when I wasn't playing, telling me to go to the camp on days I didn't want to go to camp," he said. "She was on me, motivating me and trying to make me better. I had a great group of people behind me to keep me going."

If the campers take anything from their afternoon with him, Conley said, it's "to not let anyone tell you what you can and cannot do. With hard work, persistence and dedication, you can be anything you want to be if it's in basketball or not in basketball. If it's in school or whatever it is, keep (plugging) away at what your dream is or your goals are in life. Set goals and achieve those."

One of Conley's goals is to graduate from Ohio State even though he left after his freshman year. He returned in June to take one class during the first summer session while also playing for Memphis' team in the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas and continuing his offseason training.

"It'll take a long time," he said, "but I'm going to stick with it."

He is sharing a rental with Oden, who also returned to school while training for his rookie season with the Portland Trail Blazers. Oden missed last season after having knee surgery.

"He's the same dude, sleeping all the time and doing nothing," Conley joked of his former high school teammate and college roommate. "I'm like, 'Hey, let's go here,' and he's like, 'Aw, I just want to go to bed, Mike. I just want to relax.'

"That's him. He hasn't changed at all. But that's good to see because I know a lot of people can change with the different things that are thrown at us."

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