The oldest kid at the Luke Ridnour Basketball Camp has lived as many years as Ridnour has been a professional basketball player. The 12-year NBA veteran had been removed from Blaine High School for three years before any of the 12-year-olds at the camp on Wednesday, July 29, in the Borderite Gym were born.
But when Ridnour returned to town to host a three-day camp for the second straight year, young aspiring basketball players got excited.
“Everyone gets excited about it. Since last year happened, everyone the whole entire year talked about Luke coming back again and doing it,” Blaine girls’ basketball coach and camp volunteer Ryan Pike said. “It’s great to have someone who was pretty much raised here coming back and giving back to the community. ... It just creates a big buzz for high school basketball at Blaine again, which is really good to have.”
At 6-foot-2, Ridnour doesn’t exactly stand out as an NBA player, but donning a backward Seattle Mariners’ cap and basketball shorts, the kids took notice of the pro.
“He’s really good about handling kids and really good with instruction,” said Luke Ridnour’s father and former Blaine boys’ basketball coach Rob Ridnour. “It’s just fun to watch him interact with kids.”
But while Luke Ridnour was the reason kids showed up, it was the work of the dozen or so volunteers that kept the kids entertained. Late in the older kids (8-12 year olds) session, Bob Hoffstetter, who helps with Western Washington University’s men’s basketball team and was formerly the general manager of the Bellingham Slam, led a defense drill.
“Anyone can play defense,” Hofstetter announced. “Any high school coach will want you if you can play defense.”
He demanded intensity, signaled by an “Oh yeah” when players got down into the chair position. The following drill, which had players bounce, shuffle, jump and dive to the floor was what stuck out to 11-year-old Benjamin Latta.
“I learned the down stance and the quickfire feet,” said Latta, who hopes to play high school basketball in a few years.
But Luke Ridnour’s presence was a bonus for Latta, too.
“It’s pretty cool to have an NBA player come and teach us how to play basketball,” Latta said.
With around 100 kids, many of which aspire to eventually play high school ball, the camp also made use of several of the local high school basketball players.
Blaine graduates Breanna Chau and Taylor V’Dovec joined Lynden graduate Kaitlyn Mark along with many others to coach the kids.
“Building youth is not just about one town,” Pike said. “It’s a whole community thing. Having people from Lynden, Ferndale, Meridian and wherever to come and help out, it just creates a good community sense about it.”
And the volunteers seemed to be having as much fun as the kids. For Chau, volunteering was something that helped reinvigorate her passion for the sport.
“It’s one of like the best feelings, just giving back. You have so much passion and you get to share it with people who want to learn. Even if they have to skill at all, it’s nice that they’re open and want to learn the same things you’re doing,” Chau said. “I like their energy. Once you get older, some people lose their passion but being around younger kids, they’re just so full of energy and just wanting to learn.”
Chau, who has committed to playing for Skagit Valley College’s women’s basketball team next season, was as joyous as the kids to have Ridnour return to Blaine.
“It’s pretty nice to have him come back and still remember where he came from,” Chau said. “It kind of shows you no matter where you go in life, you still have your community and they support you.”
For many of the kids, Chau and the other high school volunteers are as big of idols as Luke Ridnour, Rob Ridnour said.
“I think anytime you can get local kids out to help the younger kids, it’s a bonus. At the start of the camp, I asked how many of them had seen Taylor V’Dovec play and they raised their hands,” Rob Ridnour said. “These high school kids that are now graduated sometimes don’t realize the impact they have on the younger kids.”
That impact is certainly not lost on the kids, who will return Thursday and Friday for the conclusion of the camp.
Reach Joshua Hart at 360-715-2238 or firstname.lastname@example.org.