After nine years in the NBA, Rajon Rondoâ€™s professional basketball resume looks like this: one NBA Championship, four-time All Star, one-time All-NBA team selection, and four-time all defensive member. He led the NBA in steals in 2009-10, and led the league in assists during the 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons.
Surprisingly, the Louisville native never had the chance to attend a summer basketball camp that featured an NBA All Star player or that had constant competition from peers in one-on-one and five-on-five action.
In his rookie season in the NBA, his former high school coach from Eastern High School, Doug Bibby, who is now the head coach at Central High School came to him with the idea of putting together Camp Rondo. Nine years later, the camp stands strong each year.
â€œRajon and I just came together. I came to him with the idea about having the camp and calling it Camp Rondo. He really wanted to do it, and we wanted to give back to the community,â€ said Bibby. â€œWhen Rajon was coming up, he didnâ€™t have the opportunity to participate in camps like this. He didnâ€™t get the chance to go to an NBA All Starsâ€™ camp and a facility like this for a whole week. Basically, he wanted to do something for the kids in the community and give back and allow them to come and participate in something that he didnâ€™t get the chance to participate in.â€
Camp Rondo was held at Mid America this year, at 1906 Watterson Trail. Two sessions were included: Session one was held June 22nd through the 26th and session two is held July 6th through the 10th.
For a week, boys and girls ages 6-16 had the chance to play basketball from 9:00am to 4:00pm to hone their skill set through scrimmages, coaching, and drills. Tuition for the camp was $225 which included lunch/snack each day, a tee-shirt, headband, backpack, autograph session, and time to spend with Rondo himself.
Campers also had the chance to meet and get signed autographs from current UofL and UK players. Quentin Snider represented Louisville and Tyler Ulis and Alex Poythress dropped in from Big Blue Nation.
Snider, who attended the camp since he was nine said, â€œItâ€™s real fun and competitive. After giving autographs, I just remembered me being a little kid asking for autographs.â€
Ulis saw the camp as an opportunity to brighten someone elseâ€™s day. â€œWe just came to stop by to show our faces and sign a couple of autographs for the kids. It doesnâ€™t really take much to make someone elseâ€™s day. We just came out here to do that.â€
Rondo was unavailable to speak with media due to NBA free agency speculation, but co-founder Doug Bibby said the environment was â€œfamily festive.â€ With a plethora of former Bibby players and coaches who have worked with him over the years, he says, â€œEvery year we have the camp is like a family reunion.â€
Camp Rondo focuses not solely on basketball and enhancing oneâ€™s skills. Each day, campers gathered around to discuss the â€˜word of the dayâ€™, to able to see â€œthe bigger picture,â€ Bibby says and to be able to apply important principles into their everyday life.
â€œMonday, we talk about academics, Tuesday is rest and nutrition, Wednesday is mental toughness, Thursday is all about teamwork, and Friday we end it with character; who you are when no one else is around. We talk about all aspects of lifeâ€, said Bibby. â€œFor us, in order to be a great basketball [player], you have to be a great person. Those are the things we try to instill in the kids each day, so that they can remain focused and understand what the big picture is. Itâ€™s not just to be a great basketball player, thatâ€™s just a fraction of it. We want you to be a good student, great basketball player, but most importantly we want you to be a great person.â€
Looking towards the future, Bibby says he and Rondo will look to provide a service to kids living in the west end of Louisville. For some of them, transportation to the facility is unattainable. Therefore, they will look to partner with churches and non-profits through the Hardwood Foundation that will create convenient and accessible transportation for young campers to attend.
In addition, for students who do well in school, the Hardwood Foundation will seek to provide scholarship funding for those kids who also want to attend. Bibby says, â€œEven when Rondo retires, I want to keep doing this, because it is a great experience for the kids.â€ VT