A future NBA star sat on the hardwood floor with his legs crossed as in strolled Charles Barkley.
For a 7-year-old kid, it was heaven.
Images of “Glen Clem’s Basketball Camp” saturate the pages of my youth, but no moment was more memorable than the time when “Sir Charles” arrived in Jasper.
Recently, I was rummaging through some old family relics when I ran across a newspaper clipping from 1985. July 19, to be exact, and it was an article written by Brian Kennedy for the Daily Mountain Eagle sports page.
“Barkley adds thrill to basketball camp,” the headline roared.
A smile immediately dashed across my face.
From time to time, I will walk down the road of nostalgia and write a story about Glen Clem, head basketball coach of the Walker College Rebels, who died way too soon in the fall of 1996 at the age of 59 (one or two more stories and I will become his official biographer). Twenty-three years have passed, and I still miss my coach.
Because Coach Clem injected so much fun and laughter into my boyhood, it just doesn’t seem right not to have known him in my adult life. Yet hundreds of young boys, like myself, still hold fond memories of the immortal “Glen Clem’s Basketball Camp.” We remember the perpetual blue and white T-shirts boasting the stages of a jump shot. We remember the coldest drinks in town. We remember the banning of watches and “costume jewelry.” We remember the in-between, Vaudevillian moments where Clem would drain hook shots from 30 feet or half court shots from an Indian style position. Or campers getting knocked out of the free throw contest and checking in to “Heartbreak Hotel.”
The whole thing was a gas.
But there was no bigger moment than when Barkley arrived at camp. I don’t know how Clem managed to pull it off, but he convinced the greatest basketball player to ever come out of the state of Alabama to attend his basketball camp and offer a few words of wisdom.
As everyone reading this article knows, I never made it to the NBA, but because of Glen Clem, I was able to sit in the presence of greatness that day.
It just goes to show how much Coach Clem loved his camp, and loved to pour into the lives of children.
Now I would like to share with you the entire transcript of Brian Kennedy’s article. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did. And maybe, for just a moment, you can become a boy again.
The young man’s eyes showed a distinctive sparkle and a smile swept over his face as he slowly rose to his feet and walked toward the giant of a man in front of him.
He reached his destination with an air of uneasiness about him, when suddenly the big hand came to rest on his shoulder. It was here that his nervous nature disappeared and great joy took over.
The young man had just been chosen by Charles Barkley, former Auburn great and presently a forward for the Philadelphia 76ers, to be a member of his team.
Barkley made a guest appearance at the Annual Glen Clem Basketball Day Camp Thursday morning at the Walker College Gymnasium.
Barkley brought out smile after smile from the young campers in his time at the cap, offering sound advice and instruction to the future crop of basketball stars.
According to Barkley, who will instruct his own basketball camp next week in Birmingham, he finds a great deal of enjoyment in working with young people.
“The only reason I do things like this is that I love working with kids,” Barkley said. “As long as they have a good time, I have a good time.”
A good time was definitely one thing Barkley provided to the numerous campers Thursday. Following a brief talk and a question and answer session, Barkley engaged in several contests with the young players.
Barkley feels that the summer basketball camps are a big plus to the young player just starting out in the basketball world.
“When I was young, I didn’t have the financial ability to attend camps, such as this one, and there are times when I think it hurts my game somewhat,’ the Philadelphia star said. “These camps are extremely valuable to the players. It really doesn’t matter how good you are, you’re not going to get better without practicing.”
Barkley, who opted his senior season at Auburn University to go to the professional ranks, was pleased with his rookie season with the 76ers.
“I thought that the first year went really well,” Barkley said. “I was fortunate enough to play a great deal with a fine team and that made it all worthwhile.”
According to Barkley, life as a professional basketball player suits his style and taste perfectly.
“There’s a lot of difference in professional basketball and college basketball,” Barkley said. “Professional basketball is a lot easier to me, in that you have one set job to do and that’s play ball. From there, you really don’t have very much to worry about.”
Barkley, who is looking forward to the coming season, has decided to slow the pace somewhat this summer and work with his basketball camp.
“I’ve been trying to tone it down a little bit this summer,” he said. “I don’t want to play myself out.”
Whether or not the young man chosen by Barkley was an Auburn fan is unknown, but one thing can be assured from this point, that the young player will grow up being a Charles Barkley fan.
For Barkley gave the youngster a moment that could never be forgotten.
Kennedy was right. It was a moment we haven’t forgotten.
Thank you Coach. 78