Stevens: Alford's Camps Are Fundaments & Skills Blanketed By Good Times

June 6, 2012

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By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/

For J.R. Giddens, Roman Martinez, Darren Prentice, Daniel Faris and a whole lot of other ex-Lobos, a summer job at the Steve Alford Basketball Camps is a double dose of coming back to their roots.

First, they return to The Pit and the Rudy Davalos Center where they enjoyed their glory days as members of the University of New Mexico men's basketball program.

They also return to the grass-root days of their own basketball journey when they were the wide-eyed kids running around the courts trying to get better and having a blast while they did it.

"Don't tell Coach (Alford), but he wouldn't even have to pay me to come out here," said Martinez, who came up from El Paso in 2006 to become a Lobo. "You do this for the kids and because you love being out here.

"I try to do this every year because it's fun for me, too. We love the game and we love to teach the game."

It's easy to see why Martinez was one of the more loved Lobos ever. His enthusiasm for coaching the young campers was genuine - and infectious. Yes, Martinez was having fun. He was one of several Lobos and ex-Lobos who took advantage of this opportunity to hang out with - and teach - a whole lot of young New Mexico athletes.

A young camper shouts encouragment to a teammate

"I remember how it was when I was a kid and how someone had to give me instructions to help me become a better player," said Giddens, who played at UNM from 2006 to 2008. "I love this chance to come back and help kids get better and put a smile on their face at the same time."

Said Faris: It's fun to be out here with these kids. They have such a good time that you can't help but have a good time, too."

There is no question that the Steve Alford Camps are a fun place to be. There were sounds of coaching bouncing around the courts as the camp instructors worked on fundamentals and basic basketball skills. But another sound always managed to rise above everything else - the sound of kids laughing.

"I'm still playing a game I love, but it's nice to see how much these kids like to be out here hanging out with their friends and playing a game just because it's fun," said Giddens. "They aren't out here playing for a scholarship or for money. The innocent phase is very cute to watch"

For sure, the campers have fun. But there also is a serious vein to Alford's camps. The Lobo coach provides his campers with top-notch instructors and they go out and teach the game the right way. Alford is a coach with a foundation of fundamentals and a belief in honing skills. His campers get that, too.

Alford was constantly on the move during the camp: giving pointers, patting kids on the back, giving instructions, dishing out high fives. It was a very relaxed Alford, who obviously was enjoying the time spent on a level of play below Division I.

"There is so much passion in this state for basketball and we do this to give the young players an opportunity to get quality instruction and learn what it takes to get better," said Alford. "This is a camp based on fundamentals and it is growing like crazy.

"We spend a lot of time teaching the basics and that's important. But it's also a chance for our players to give back to the community by reaching out to these kids. Sometimes it can be a challenge getting a first grader to pay attention to what you are trying to teach them, but they are so open to wanting to learn."

Said Martinez: "We are trying to teach these kids the basic skills while letting them have fun. But once you get them out here, you don't have to do much to let them have fun. They love being here. You can see it."

Editor's Note: Richard Stevens is a former award-winning Sports Columnist and Associate Sports Editor at The Albuquerque Tribune. You can reach him at "