This year, the annual Nike Hoops Camp at the Trail Blazers practice facility kicked-off, literally, with a special visit from star striker of the English Men’s National Soccer Team, Darren Bent. The week-long camp, hosting 125 kids, is commonly visited by players from the Trail Blazers who teach not only the fundamentals of basketball, but also teamwork, respect, self-discipline and self-esteem, but hosting a soccer star was an uncommon delight.
Interim Head Coach Kaleb Canales, a massive soccer fan, welcomed Bent of the English Premier League’s Aston Villa to speak to campers on the opening day of camp.
Bent, in town with Aston Villa for a friendly game against the Portland Timbers, took time from his packed schedule to meet Canales, exchange jerseys and tour the Trail Blazers practice facility.
“I’m a big basketball fan as people know,” Bent said. “And when I knew I was coming to Portland, I’ve never been here before, and I knew they’ve got a basketball team so I wanted to come and check the facilities out and it was nice to meet the head coach and come and have a look.”
“The facilities are just second to none, I couldn’t get over how big it was in there, how big the locker rooms were and it’s just crazy. Completely different to soccer but it was an experience and I really enjoyed it.”
In typical fashion, Canales used the rare opportunity not only as a thrill for himself, but as a chance to share with campers the similarities between his two favorite sports, basketball and soccer.
“We’ve had coaches here before and special guests, but from the top of my head I can’t remember the last athlete from another sport that we had in,” Canales said. “I think, especially for me because he’s a soccer player and like I told the kids at camp I think it’s a sport that is very similar to basketball, but anytime we have somebody from Aston Villa’s squad, a player on the England National Team, is a pretty special treat for the kids and a pretty cool treat for me.”
Check out a full photo gallery
of Bent's visit to camp.
The Trail Blazers are also holding a series of free Nike Hoops clinics throughout the summer. Three clinics remain: August 1, 10 AM at Woodlawn Park; August 7, 10 AM at Essex Park; and August 9, 10 AM at Lents Park.