By DANNY P. SMITH
The smiles told the story at the Starkville Sportsplex gym.
As Starkville native Travis Outlaw of the New Jersey Nets wrapped up the Elite Basketball Camp on Thursday morning, there was fun and fellowship mixed in with a little bit of basketball.
Outlaw, now an eight-year NBA veteran, usually comes home in the offseason and schedules the camp for this time of year.
He's thankful for the opportunity to share the game he loves with the campers in attendance.
"It's been fun to come out, show them a couple of little skill sets and teaching them to enjoy the game also," Outlaw said. "With anything, you have to work hard at it. It's not just basketball."
The purpose of the camp was to help players in grades 6-12 who want to improve their skills and enhance their overall game. The camp taught various stages of basketball to help develop and improve individual skills.
Travis' father John Outlaw said that ever since his son has been in the NBA, he's wanted to give back to Starkville and the community.
"Athletics is one part, but he's going to be doing more things," John said. "He wants to do some things with the school and the county schools. He wants to let the kids know that someone really cares."
Even though Outlaw chose to by-pass college to enter the NBA draft, one of the things he stresses in his interaction with campers is the importance of an education.
It's a message that Outlaw has looked to pass along this week.
"It wasn't so long ago that he was a young man running around and saying I'm going to play in the NBA," John Outlaw said. "Now after eight years of being in the NBA, he's got a couple of them coming to him and asking what can they do to follow in your footsteps. He's telling them education is very important so work on your skills, do your homework and get your grades because if you fall short, you fall short. You have to have something to fall back on."
With a long-term contract with the Nets in place, John said Travis plans to go back to school and take some courses.
Travis has gotten help from players and coaches this week, including his former high school coach Greg Carter.
He thanks them for their service and said it's always good to see Carter.
Carter realizes the things Travis is doing for Starkville and is glad to be a part of it.
"It's a great opportunity for him to give back to the community and be able to help some kids out along the way and help them improve their basketball skills," Carter said. "He does a lot and I don't think a lot of it get publicized. It's nice for someone who has come out of this community and has grown and prospered to be able to give back."