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Senior visits NBA Basketball Camps for summer break
Several years ago, Wayne Ayers would have never dreamed of being involved in NBA basketball camps. He played basketball for the pure fun of it, but he never imagined it would take him to places like Philadelphia or New York. This summer, Ayers was given the opportunity to attend the 2013 Knicks Summer Basketball Camp and the 76ers Basketball Camp in two different cities to work on his skills.
“It was a fun learning experience,” Ayers said of the camps. “I was really happy.”
His older sister, Ke’Andrea Ayers, who works as a Production Coordinator for MTV, decided to send him off to the camps this summer to improve his skills and what she sees as his raw talent for the sport.
“I visited my brother in April for the first time in two years and he just seemed unhappy. I know basketball is the main thing that keeps him off the streets and focused so I wanted to do something nice for him. When I got back to New York, I just worked more and picked up some side production gigs to save money for his camp,” said Ke’Andrea Ayers. “My dad also helped me pay for it. I was originally going to put him in just the Knicks day camp, but after the Knicks was paid for I came across information on the 76ers overnight camp. It looked amazing.”
Early in his life, his sister could see the passion that drove her brother to play basketball. Even as a short 7 year old, she knew her brother was in his environment when he played the game. Life wasn’t always easy for their family, and her persistence of keeping her brother working hard and pursuing his passion has been a focus for her since she left home.
In 2005, Ayers was in fifth grade when he and his sisters and mother ended up homeless. His mother’s illness of Sarcoidosis had left her unable to work, and she had nowhere to take her family. After a month of living in a car, the Ayers found an apartment. Once the family settled into a regular routine again, Ayers became heavily involved in basketball in middle school. His sisters ended up taking college classes, and left the nest to pursue dreams as far away as New York and London. The positive drive from their mother is what kept them going, the Ayers siblings said.
“It got us closer,” Ayers said of the situation. “We had a close relationship.”
Ke’Andrea said she believes her brother had it the worst because he dealt with rough living conditions the longest. She thinks that even the darkest days have sculpted her brother’s attitude and drive to continue playing basketball. After their parents divorced, the joy was drained out of their childhood, she said.
“He hasn’t really experienced any of the joyful things of having a childhood,” she said. “The homeless situation was a small part of it. Just him growing up with one parent, one income and not having the basic things in life like furniture or a bed to sleep on. The only thing he’s ever had to take his mind off of things is basketball.”
Even though he has an obvious knack for the game now, the 17-year-old senior said it wasn’t always easy.
“It was difficult,” he said of learning how to play. “All my friends were good at it, and I was terrible.”
After two years of hard work and practice, Ayers became good enough to get involved with the Bremerton Wildcats where he averages 10 to 12 points per game as a small forward.
He was 15 when he joined, and he hasn’t looked back since. As a basketball player at Bremerton High School, where he also plays the small forward position and averages about the same amount of points as he does for the Wildcats. Throughout the summer, he’s stayed involved with the Wildcats and the Kitsap Admirals, which means he has practice or a game every day of the week -- a time-consuming endeavor for a young man who only has a few more weeks before he starts school again. But he wouldn’t have it any other way.
Entering his last year of school, Ayers has high hopes for his future. His aim is to score a basketball scholarship and attend UCLA or Rutgers. He also plans to study sports management in college, a goal that makes his older sister proud.
“He already has a list of colleges he wants to apply to and he knows what he wants to major in. I wasn’t even thinking that deep into college at his age. He doesn’t let his past get to him. He only focuses on the future and that makes me happy,” his sister said. “He knows there’s people who have had it worse. I really enjoyed taking him to camp. He made me so proud and at both camps; he was a top player. I felt like I was rooting for my son.”
The Bremerton student said his favorite part of the camps included learning leadership skills and taking in new pivoting and defense styles. Hearing from college coaches and meeting other kids from different areas was another highlight of the two camps that took up a good chunk of his summer.
Ayers said he spent a lot of time learning how to do drills and team activities. Free time was also a part of the 76ers camp where he could spend time swimming, paint balling or watching movies before participating in another team activity. His favorite was the 76ers camp where he said it felt more like a college setting.
“You got to stay a week in a dorm, so it was more like college life,” he said.
The 76ers Basketball Camps was established in 1985 where 70,000 campers from more than 40 states and 40 countries come to participate.
The Knicks Summer Basketball Camp focuses on players ages 8 through 18 with training in a “structured basketball learning experience,” states the Knicks camp website.
In addition to picking up new skills, Ayers also was on the winning team for both camp championships. For his efforts in being a top player, he won the Charles Barkley “One-on-One” award, and he was given a certificate. And while at the Knicks camp, he met Walt “Clyde” Frazier and current player J.R. Smith.
“They inspired me more and the fact that I can do it,” Ayers said of meeting the famed players. “And they believe I can make it to the NBA … J.R. said I was ‘great for my age.’”
Aside from showcasing his skills at the Knicks camp, Ayers also left an impression with the community director for the team. After hearing of Ayer’s story, the director decided to send him an autographed Carmelo Anthony jersey and goodie bag for his recent 17th birthday.
Overall, Ayers sister hopes that her brother picked up basketball skills as well as life lessons during his time away from Bremerton this summer.
“His love for the game is very inspiring. He doesn’t want to go rob houses or smoke weed; all he wants to do is play. He was young during the homeless situation and I don’t think he really gained a perspective on it until he visited this summer.
“New York is beautiful, but it’s also brutal,” she said. “He had a chance to see Time Square and meet successful people, but he also had the chance to see homeless people all through the train stations. People asking for money and kids his age selling candy just to eat. I think that also helped sculpt his work ethic, and all I can do is hope that he works even harder this year so that he can accomplish his goals. I don’t want him to get too comfortable.”