Durant Holds Austin Camp

Durant Holds Austin Camp

It was at Kevin Durant's Oklahoma City camp that he heard the latest critic to his game.

"A kid said, 'I really don't like you. I really don't like your game,'" Durant said. "I was like, 'you're at my camp though.' He was like 'yeah, I just don't like your game.'"

According to Durant, the precocious youngster told him that he needed to post more. Oh, and that he needed to work on his jump shot.

"I took that in stride," Durant said. "And I took that to heart."

It's that workmanlike effort that has helped to propel Durant among the NBA's best, and most exciting young players. This season, he and Oklahoma City seemed to hit a rut before both rebounded to push the Thunder into the Western Conference Finals, where they lost to eventual champion Dallas.

"I was upset for a while … knowing that we had a chance to get to the top of that mountain," Durant said. "That kind of hurt. But sometimes you have to go through those tough times to get to where you want to get to.

"It's all about experience and I think we gained a lot of experience going to the conference finals, a place that nobody thought we could get," Durant said. "But we want to set bigger goals and everybody on our team is not happy with just getting to the conference finals."

Durant preached that winning mentality to this past weekend's visitors to the inaugural Kevin Durant Basketball Camp at Austin Westlake High School. At the camp, Durant encouraged the players to "play to win, play together and have fun."

"That's all it takes," Durant said.

That, and a love for the game. At the same age as his younger campers — camp attendees ranged from 7-to-18 — Durant said he was spending all his time out on the court, running and shooting.

"I just tried to build that love for the game early," Durant said. "It became a hobby, then it became a way of life. It starts at this age, I think."

At the same time, Durant said he wished he had the same kinds of camp opportunities. Both the Oklahoma City and Austin camps had more than 400 campers in attendance, with each attendee participating in skills, drills and games. All campers received a camp T-shirt and a Durant-autographed team photo. The camp also hosted a group of campers on scholarship from the Boys and Girls Club of Austin.

"It would have been really cool for me to see an NBA player at that age," Durant said. "So it feels good that I can give that to them."

But while the focus was on skill development, Durant said at least one camper asked him about the upcoming NBA season.

"A little kid asked me about the lockout," Durant said. "I didn't think that was coming. But that shows how much these kids watch the game and respect the game. I know if I was that age, I wouldn't even know what the lockout was. So these kids are getting smarter and smarter by the day.

"I just told him we'll be playing games at the regularly scheduled time, and he understood," Durant said.

At the same time, Durant conceded that "there's a part of me that's worried."

"Of course I want to play," Durant said. "But I'm really positive about the situation. I think we can get something done before the summer's out. Even though the talks are going really slow, I still think they can speed up."

Durant said that the players were sticking together, as the owners were, trying to make sure that the owners "know we aren't going to give in."

But the lockout hasn't dampened Durant's excitement for Longhorns Tristan Thompson, Jordan Hamilton and Cory Joseph, all of whom were selected in the first round of the NBA Draft.

"I'm so happy for them," Durant said. "To see all those guys go in the first round to teams that are pretty good, speaks volumes to how much they work hard and to the program at the University of Texas on preparing those guys. It will be fun to play against them. We're friends up until they toss a ball up (when I'm playing) against them. It will be cool to add three more brothers into the Texas fraternity of NBA players."

Durant credited Texas coach Rick Barnes with helping to develop Longhorn players.

"Coach Barnes has been a really big mentor to me," Durant said. "During the season, he's so locked in and so focused on what he has to do to help his team get better. I try to take that away from him. He's one of the hardest workers I've ever been around. He demands that respect from everybody.

"He knows that I love him, and I know that he loves me outside of basketball," Durant said. "I'm just honored and privileged (to have him)."

Durant said he hoped he could help serve as a mentor for the kids at the Kevin Durant Basketball Camp. There are already plans for next year's camp, he said, and Durant is hoping for an even bigger turnout.

"I just want the kids to come in and have fun," Durant said.

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