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Tommy Burleson and former N.C. State teammate and college head coach Phil Spence speak to
campers at last week’s Burleson Basketball Camp.
Photo by Jamie Shell

Originally published: 2012-07-19 10:09:48
Last modified: 2012-07-19 10:09:48

Burleson camp shares fundamentals, moral truths

Jamie Shell / (

Legendary basketball star and Avery County native Tommy Burleson, in conjunction with Avery Parks and Recreation Department, held its annual Tommy Burleson Youth Basketball Camp. Since 1985, children ranging from grades three to 12 have spent a week each year at the camp learning fundamental skills such as dribbling, passing, shooting and defense. 

Burleson, standout center for N.C. State University, former two-time ACC Basketball Tournament Most Valuable Player, U.S. Olympian and NBA veteran, takes time each summer to pass on his wealth of basketball knowledge to kids, in addition to valuable truths learned from his life. His desire is to help young people improve themselves and put forth effort both on and off the court.

“Basketball is about a passion that you want to play the game. I want to let kids know that their heart is where their passion is,” Burleson said during a break in camp drills. “It may be basketball, it may be football, math, science or computers. Whatever it is, it’s going to take work ethic and an amount of dedication on their part.”

Another important aspect of the camp for Burleson is to express the importance of education and the role of faith in his career and life. 

“The key to success in anything is education. You can’t get into your house or start a car without a key, so what we’re hopefully instilling in the kids is a work ethic in all aspects of life; especially at this important time in their lives they need to be looking at education,” Burleson added. “Our younger kids need to be setting short-term goals while our high school kids in camp need to be considering long-term goals in regard to continuing education through college. We’re just trying to impart some life skills and prioritize the important things in life of God, family and career.” 

Several individuals through the years have assisted Burleson during camp week. Former teammate of Burleson and former head coach at N.C. Central University Phil Spence attended a morning camp session this year to instruct kids on the importance of defense and defensive positioning around the basket.

Also returning on the final day of camp, another of Burleson’s former teammates, N.C. State legend and NBA Hall of Famer David Thompson and nephew Dion Malachi made the trek to Newland. Thompson shared his Christian testimony with the campers and showed the kids a number of drills and skills to help them improve their game. 

Additional counselors helping with the camp this year included Avery High School basketball coach Reggie Oakes, Tyler Chambers, Kyle Wise, Brooke Buchanan and Teddy Bare. 

Throughout the week, a key principle taught was having a strong foundation of fundamentals in whatever the campers choose to do or be in life. 

“Everything we do is about fundamentals and what you build your foundation on, whether dribbling, boxing out, rebounding, shooting or whatever. You can tell many of these kids, especially the older players, have been playing basketball in their driveways and have a good grasp of basketball fundamentals,” Burleson said. “As a Christian I feel this camp is one of my callings, and we want it to be a good experience for the kids who come.”

Over the course of the week, close to 60 campers attended and received an official camp T-shirt. Throughout the history of the camp, Burleson, as well as his special guests and counselors, teach campers positive morals in addition to basketball principles.

“This has been a good group of kids. They’ve been very respectful and came here with a great learning attitude,” Burleson said.