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November 19, 2007Chris Rivers, is a throw back of the old school basketball philosophy. "Put some sweat into your game to achieve something great," he says.
As Director of Basketball for Reeboks Rbk U All-American Camp, Rivers oversees the prominent yearly event that evolved when the ABCD Camp run by Sonny Vaccaro, ended. Rbk U convened this summer and continuing the tradition of its predecessor by assembling the nations top high school basketball players for a week of basketball related activities, with the best of the best participating in a Championship Game and an All-star Game extraordinaire on the campus of Philadelphia University. Both games were webcasted over the Internet by HSBnetwork.TV
The Championship and All-star game players, of the 120 attending, included the likes of Brandon Jennings, Kevin Jones and Mike Rosario. The name "Rbk U" was created to emphasize the "University" theme, starting with registration and ending with graduation.
When asked about the success of the first Rbk U this July, Rivers responded, "It was very successful.
We achieved our goals. To create a larger Reebok presence and a larger on and off the court experience." Some of the off the court experiences included a Career Seminar Day that was divided into four components. There was a Financial Management component and a Reebok 101 component that educated players on the footwear industry. In addition, a Team Building component challenged players to create and deliver business ideas and plans. Lastly, there was a Media Panel compenent, that educated players in the role of media and how to interact with them effectively. "In '08 we plan to expand the Career Focus piece," states Rivers.
How does Rbk U differentiate itself from the other camps? "We are the only traditional all-American Camp," answers Rivers, who is not one to mince words. "The Nike Camp is nice, but they promote themselves as a skills camp and adidas doesn't have a camp in July."
Rbk U takes a traditional approach in its selection process, which is to let ones game speak for itself. Rivers, along with his Grassroots Basketball Associate Manager, Patrick Coombs have developed an innovative process that allows both recognized and undiscovered talent to shine. Of the 120 invited to attend, a national selection committee of twenty that consists of the who's who in basketball such as Tom Konchalski selects 60. Of the remaining 60 spots, 56 are filled as result of multiple regional Reebok Breakout Camps where over 1200 players' tryout. The four remaining spots are filled by skimming from the cream of the crop at the Breakout Underclassmen Camp in Chicago. The Breakout Underclassmen Camp consists of 80 rising sophomores and juniors who are about one or two years away from being Rbk U material. "It's a great story of perseverance and dedication when a relatively unknown player like John Wall can be top 5 at the Breakout Camp, get invited to RBk U and end up as a top 10 player there." says Rivers. "Now his phone is ringing off the hook"
Chris Rivers is also hard on critics who say that the all-star games at sneaker camps are all showmanship with one on one and no defense as opposed to then traditional high school basketball games. Rivers retorts "Yeah but they keep showing up to watch. These kids have already proven that they can play on that level. All-Star games are supposed to be entertaining and fun. If you want traditional, go to a high school game." Rivers adds, "People are too critical of this generation. Basketball is supposed to be fun."
When asked why Rbk U was in Philadelphia and not in New Jersey like the ABCD Camp was, Rivers responded, "Rbk U is a new property and we couldn't live in the shadows of ABCD. Philly basketball is definitely not the stepchild of tri-state basketball. We wanted to stay East Coast and be accessible to the kids plus the Philadelphia University campus and gym are beautiful"
Will Rbk U be in Philly next year? "Definitely," replied Rivers.
BONUS: Tomorrow, see the HSBnetwork.TV webcasts of the Rbk U All-Star and Championship Games
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