As they waited for the morning’s second session to begin, a group of four boys hoisted desperate, two-handed shots from too far out at a combined accuracy of around 10 percent. In their brief, miniature game of two-on-two, no double dribbles were called, or perhaps recognized. Airballs abounded.
At their young age, some discipline and guidance are usually in order.
Only eight K-8 graders — six boys and two girls — took part in the second skills & drills session at the CP3 Basketball Academy on April 15. Total attendance was down from a usual turnout of 30 to 60, and lower than the day’s first session, for which 26 kids had signed up. But on the day between Good Friday and Easter, the low number didn’t come as a surprise or concern.
The CP3 Basketball Academy — a program that promotes life skills through basketball — has only been around since December. Its namesake, Chris Paul (who wears No. 3), grew up in Winston-Salem, graduated from West Forsyth High School in 2003 and played two years at Wake Forest University before joining the NBA.
The skills & drills sessions were a test drive, a chance for kids — and, of course, parents — to see if the membership and development at the CP3 Basketball Academy was for them.
Based on a curriculum called Basketball Training Systems, the program develops kids through a process that mirrors martial arts. New members of the academy receive a white shirt. After their first five weeks of sessions, the players undergo an evaluation for the chance to receive a star. After five stars — 25 weeks — players graduate to the next shirt color. In total, there are 12 shirts, 60 stars and at least 300 weeks — nearly six years — of membership and lessons.
But the evaluations demand more than basketball skills. Each week, instructors discuss a specific word or idea — such as this week’s Attitude for Gratitude — which the players then define and expound on during their evaluation.
For La-Toya Robbins, who watched her son Darius go through the drills for the first time, basketball is a great opportunity to teach discipline.
“In basketball, you have to contemplate what you do before you do it,” Robbins said. “[Discipline] helps you make better decisions. You have to learn to think before you react.”
Michael Gaskins, the general manager at the academy, watched the action on the court, too. Though the program has only been established for a few months, he’s optimistic about its future. The encouragement comes not only from his seldom but positive encounters with Chris Paul, but from Paul’s parents.
Charles and Robin Paul attend events at the academy much more often than CP3 himself, whose season with the Los Angeles Clippers has kept him away from Winston-Salem for much of the year. (The Clippers are currently battling the Utah Jazz in the first round of the playoffs.)
“When I first met Mrs. Robin Paul, she gave me a hug,” Gaskins said smiling. “To have such supportive people behind you — it’s incredible.”
Despite his workload as an NBA All-Star and as president of the National Basketball Players Association, Chris Paul still spends time with his family in Winston-Salem in the summers, Gaskins said. On Aug. 11-12, Paul himself will hold two sessions at the academy for players of all ages — one for non-members and one for members, respectively. If kids join in April and remain members until August, the Chris Paul lesson is free and guaranteed.
After the second K-8 session ended, an elite skill-development event for high schoolers began with special guest instructor Josh Pittman at the helm.
Pittman was born and raised in Winston-Salem and played basketball at UNC-Asheville from 1994 to ’98. He went on to play professionally overseas, including seasons in top divisions in Argentina, Italy, Mexico and Venezuela.
For Pittman, the emphasis on life skills while teaching basketball is paramount.
“It’s everything,” Pittman said. “There were two guys who took me on when I was 11 and taught me that way. I got to give that back and be honest to it.”
Pittman began the high school session by seating players in chairs near the hoop — a drill to focus on the shooting motion of their upper body and arms only. It might not be the kind of exercise that players look forward to most when considering basketball, but to those at the academy, drills like that one epitomize the focus required to develop your game.
Even for the older participants, some discipline and guidance are still in order.