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Chauncey Billups, 40, was a standout at Denver’s George Washington High School and the University of Colorado. The 6-foot-3 guard went on to play 17 seasons in the NBA, retiring after the 2013-14 season. He scored a career-high 19.5 points per game with the Denver Nuggets in 2009-10. For his career, he averaged 15.2 points and 5.4 assists per game.
Whistles, cheers and the familiar squeak of hundreds of gym shoes filled the Parker Fieldhouse from June 26-29, as the Chauncey Billups Basketball Academy returned for its seventh year.Billups, a five-time NBA all-star and most valuable player for the 2004 NBA champion Detroit Pistons, said the camp is intended to teach fundamental skills in an enjoyable atmosphere, but the players aren’t the only ones having fun.“I’ve always been passionate about teaching basketball and working with kids,” Billups said. “I get just as much joy out of spending the week with these kids as they do. I just like to see the expressions on their faces and the energy they come in with every day.”Coaches and players rotated around every corner of the fieldhouse, drilling on the soccer field and practicing free throws on the in-line hockey rink while waiting for their turn to scrimmage on the basketball courts.The annual four-day program is divided by age and skill level, with about 225 young hoopsters between the ages of 6 and 17 working on dribbling, passing, shooting, speed and sportsmanship.The trip was worth it for Jaxon Reed, a 7-year-old whose father brought him all the way from Wichita, Kansas, to take his game to the next level.“When (my father) told me it was Chauncey Billups, I got excited because he’s an NBA player and I wanted to see him,” said Reed, who was bumped up to play with a group of fourth- and fifth-graders. “It’s fun practicing and playing games and tournaments with my friends.”Carey Whitfield, a camp coach since 2013, said he enjoys seeing returning players and how much they’ve improved since last year.“You know they’re not only getting the opportunity to meet a big name, they’re getting a chance to learn good basketball,” Whitfield said.Young players left this year’s academy with a better understanding of the game, as well as a photo with Billups and special guest, Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas, who averaged 29 points per game last season.“Chauncey asked me a while ago to come,” Thomas said. “There’s no way I would turn that down.”Thomas said he was glad to oblige Billups, but interacting with the players was even better.“It’s all about putting smiles on the kids’ faces,” Thomas said.
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