The average height of a high school athlete in the Imperial Valley is right around 5-foot 9-inches, give or take an inch, and with that kind of height on a basketball court it can be a sight to see.
When 6-foot-11 former NBA and ABA player Swen Nater graced the court Saturday morning in Brawley it was a sight to see for those who were treated to a free basketball clinic at Brawley Union High School.
“He’s kind of scary,” said 13-year-old Caliyah Beamon of Imperial. “But everything he’s teaching us actually has meaning and is going to help.”
Nater is a retired Dutch professional basketball player, primarily in the American Basketball Association (ABA) and National Basketball Association (NBA). He is the only player to have led both the NBA and ABA in rebounding. Nater was a two-time ABA All-Star and was the 1974 ABA Rookie of the Year. He played college basketball for the UCLA Bruins, winning two National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) titles.
“I jumped at this opportunity, firstly because of Phil (Grant) he’s been a friend of mine for a long time and we share a love for John Wooden and his teachings and way of life,” Nater said. “It’s an opportunity to influence young people to live that kind of life … a life of love, balance, teaching excellence and giving you young people and doing things the right way for the right reasons.”
The one day clinic featured a strong emphasis on the fundamentals of basketball and what it will take to be a better player.
“With me in this setting, it’s an opportunity to teach them how serious you need to be about the details of basketball to make it to the next level,” Nater said.
Before he continued, Nater took notice to something he doesn’t see very often.
“We’re looking at a kid right now and he’s practicing exactly what we were teaching and you don’t see that very often,” Nater said of a young player practicing during a lunch break. “Most of the time you see them shooting three-pointers or some weird NBA moves, but he’s working on the basics and he hasn’t made a reverse layup yet, but he’s’ going to keep doing it to get better.”
The clinic featured over 150 boy and girl participants from seventh to 12th grade.
The camp was free to participants, but donations were being taken to support the Captain Scott Pace Scholarship Fund.
“I’m always in the gym trying to get better because others around the world are getting better and I’m trying to pass them because I want to go to college,” said Brawley Union High junior Adalberto Lopez. “He’s teaching us the fundamentals and I think they are a big part of basketball and that’s something I can always work on.”
Lopez was the winner of the “Knock-out” game right before the lunch break earning him a camp t-shirt.
The camp served as a perfect learning experience for senior high school players like Lopez as well as a platform for first year high school players like Beamon.
“I wanted to come because I knew I could get better and it’s been fun and it’s challenging,” said Beamon who is going to play freshman basketball for Imperial High this winter. “It was nice to see all the other girls out here too … it was surprising to see that many.
“I’m going to keep practicing to get better and want to keep coming to these camps.”