Lakewood Senior Guard Is a Jump Above the Rest

Times Staff Writer

The first rays of the morning sun were splashing across the campus of UC Santa Barbara recently when the alarm clock blared. Brian Camper couldn't believe the noise.

"We got up at 6," Camper said. "I said, 'Let me get just another five minutes.' "

No chance. The days at the Sportsworld Superstar Basketball Camp began early. For Camper, it seemed as if yesterday never ended.

Camper arrived at the Superstar Camp the same day he left a weekend tournament at Lake Tahoe earlier this month. Before he had a chance to rest up, the alarm clock was calling him back onto the court again. He took his first jumper a bit bleary-eyed.

"That first game I was really tired," Camper said.

But at the Superstar Camp it was the guys guarding Camper who seemed to be a step slow. Scouts say the Lakewood senior guard is so smooth he can lull a defender to sleep--then blow right past him.

'Smooth and Natural'

"He makes things look easy that are really tough," scouting adviser Don Mead said. "He's so smooth and natural that you wonder sometimes if he's working hard, but he is. He's the smoothest I Know."

After a few days, the 260 prep players battling continuously on the four courts at the Events Center seemed to be just a blur. But there were a few players who stood out among the crowd. Camper was one.

The 6-foot-4 Camper was no ordinary camper. He was named one of the top 15 players of the week and selected for the All-Star game on the final night. The choice was not a surprise to many scouts.

"I've seen him play for awhile," UC Irvine assistant Bob Thate said. "He's really a good player, really talented. He has quickness but he's big too."

"He's a nice player," Arizona State assistant Frank Arnold said. "We've been following Brian. He's certainly got a chance to be a good one."

Arizona State is one of several schools recruiting Camper. He said he also has received letters from DePaul, Iowa, University of Nevada at Las Vegas, Oregon State and USC.

Camper isn't sure where he wants to attend college. He's keeping his options open. Camper knows that recruitment letters don't guarantee a scholarship. That's why he was at the camp.

"I'm trying to show the scouts and the coaches who came to watch that I can play," Camper said. "The first game or two you're nervous. At first you're looking up there in the stands. But then you relax and just play."

This is the second consecutive year Camper has attended the Superstar Camp. Like the scouts in the stands, he has noticed his own improvement.

A Prized Possession

"I'm playing a lot better this year than I did last year," Camper said. "Here, you learn what you got to work on to get better. I've learned my game still needs work, but 't's pretty good compared to the people in this camp."

Like many players, Camper spent a lot of time on the court just trying to get his hands on the basketball. It was a prized possession among the 260 scholarship-hungry campers.

"A lot of times you don't get the ball for about five minutes," Camper said. "They don't pass the ball around. I'd like to get it more. When you do get the ball you got to do yours."

With the basketball in hand, Camper tried to work on some moves and improve his shooting range. However, the scouts in the stands tempted him to rely more on some old familiar tricks.

"On the playground you're more relaxed, you practice things you don't do in the game," Camper said. "At camp it feels like you can't mess up or you won't get a scholarship. You try to relax. The more relaxed player does better. You just can't think about the scouts."

Eventually, Camper relaxed in front of all the coaches. But he still had trouble finding time to relax off the court. The four days of Superstar Camp are filled with basketball. The day starts at 6:45 a.m. and doesn't end until 11 p.m.

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