Former basketball stars visit summer sports camp

David West and Lionel Chalmers spend time teaching boys about basketball skills and tough decisions | July 23, 2004

The boys attending Xavier’s basketball camp last week were treated to a visit from two former Xavier stars who are now playing for National Basketball Association teams.

David West and Lionel Chalmers showed up Thursday, July 22, at the invitation of head coach Sean Miller to talk to the campers about basketball, college and their futures.

“It’s important that the former great players are able to come back,” Miller said. “Xavier is what it is today because of the great people who have played here at some time. It’s very inspirational for the kids.”

West, the former center and team leader who graduated in 2003 and played for the New Orleans Hornets last season, took the opportunity to demonstrate court skills he’s learned since going pro. He talked about the differences between playing in the NBA and college and got a little help from Xavier players Justin Doellman, Will Caudle, Justin Cage and Keenan Christiansen to demonstrate tactics unique to the NBA.

“The speed and quickness of the game was the one thing I struggled with in switching to the NBA – the speed of each individual player,” he said.

Chalmers, who flew in from Los Angeles to spend a day with the campers, spoke about the personal setbacks that twice challenged him to quit the Xavier team, and the inspiration he found to keep going.

“I came in 1999 and was in my room one day and was told I couldn’t play for a year,” he said. “I had to focus on my academics. I was ready to leave after a year, but I came to play. I stuck with it and ended up winning two championships last year.”

As a junior, Chalmers broke his foot during the season and was out four weeks. He debated whether he wanted to keep playing or just get his degree and get out. He decided not to give up.

“Coach Miller worked with me and helped me through it. It shows if you’re determined and driven, you can do it, no matter what the situation. I finished the season with Dave. The next year, everybody in my class was gone and I had to be a leader. Everyone doubted us, but we stayed together as a team and the next thing you know, we’re in the Elite 8 and Duke ended my career.

"Don’t let anyone tell you you can’t do something. If you’re determined, you can get it done.”

He also told the boys to take care of their school work, because those who don’t won’t be able to play ball. “It takes more than being able to play. You have to be driven,” he said.

Chalmers said he’s decided to sign with the L.A. Clippers and is preparing to move to Los Angeles. West said he’s living in Raleigh for the summer doing a training camp and visiting his parents. He’ll move back to New Orleans at the end of August to be with the Hornets. He came to Cincinnati to spend a week helping out at Miller’s basketball camp for kids, which Miller inherited from former coach Thad Matta. The last camp ended Thursday.

“I came up here because I enjoy camp and being around the kids,” West said. “I just like to hang around the camp.”