A first-year success in the NBA with the New York Knicks, Tim Hardaway Jr., returned to the Ann Arbor area Saturday for his first annual THJ Youth Basketball Camp at Saline High School.
"I always wanted to do a camp back in Ann Arbor after I left," said Hardaway, who averaged 14.3 points in 107 games for the Wolverines from 2011-13. "Just watching Coach Beilein's camps and being a part of those, it made me realize how important it is to give back to where you came from and where all your success started."
The campers ranged from kindergarten to eighth grade, and they were led through drills by Jon Kronberg and his staff at One-On-One Sports Training in partnership with ISGCamps. The company will be hosting more camps this summer with more big-name sponsors.
Hardaway spoke to the kids for a few minutes and then observed before jumping into the action.
"I see a lot of skill out there," he said. "They're young so the goal is have a good time.
"It's very exciting, especially because these kids are a part of my first ever camp and hopefully if I keep coming back they will keep coming back and improve and improve every year, and I would love to see the kind of players some of these kids turn into."
During his three-year career at Michigan, Hardaway helped lead the Wolverines to a Big Ten regular-season title in 2012, and three NCAA Tournaments, including a Final Four run in 2013 that left U-M six points shy of a national title.
With Hardaway and Trey Burke moving on, though, to the NBA, the 2014 team was expected to struggle some, and then was cast aside as a team without a chance to even make the tournament after center Mitch McGary was lost for the season with a back injury.
Instead, Michigan won the Big Ten title outright with a 15-3 record and made another postseason run, advancing to the Elite Eight.
"It was very exciting to see, especially with all the doubters they had ragging on them and telling them they weren't as good without me and Trey," Hardaway said. "But they proved that Michigan is going to be a really good team year in and year out, and that's what this next team has to do. People already doubt them, but they can use that because they want to keep this tradition alive that we've established the last few years."
Meanwhile, in 11 days, three of Hardaway's former teammates - McGary, Nik Stauskas and Glen Robinson III - will await their fate at the 2014 NBA Draft June 26. The consensus is that Stauskas will be a lottery pick while McGary and Robinson are potential late-first rounders.
"That's why they came to Michigan, to fulfill they're dreams, and they're fulfilling them right now," said Hardaway, who averaged 10.2 points in 81 games with the Knicks as a rookie. "Nik has a good opportunity to go in the lottery, which is really exciting to see but if Mitch or Glenn go late in the first round they can have success too if you work hard.
"I was a late first-round pick [No. 24] and I think I showed that if you bust your butt, and do your thing, there is going to be a place for you because NBA coaches and GMs want to win and if you can help them do that, that's all that matters."
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