SPORTS ADDICT: Hard work takes Ewing a long way…
SPORTS ADDICT: Hard work takes Ewing a long way…
By Denton Ramsey / Sports Editor
Every once in a while a moment comes along where an athlete makes the transition from high school hoops to the NCAA level.
Every once in a while, a few select kids with a select amount of talent are taken in a draft and given the chance to succeed in the NBA.
And every once in a while, the NBA drafts a player like Los Angeles Clippers guard and former Duke Blue Devil Daniel Ewing… a player with much more heart, soul and passion than just the ability to put an orange ball through a metal rim.
This past summer, Ewing took time from his busy schedule to spend time with some local kids in the Dallas/Fort Worth area discussing life, love and playing hoops at the 18th Annual Premier Basketball Camp held at Schimelpfenig Middle School in Plano.
Ewing, a former Blue Devil under the helm of the greatest coach of all time in Coach Mike Krzyzewski, has learned a lot during his time playing basketball – from the first time he touched a basketball at age three to making swish after swish for the three-time NCAA Champion Duke basketball team.
For Ewing, donning the Duke uniform was just another step in his ultimate goal to reach the NBA.
But he learned a lot along the way – getting daily lessons of advice to use both on and off the court from both teammates and the coaching staff at Duke.
For athletes wishing to make the most of their lives and their talents, there’s no better choice than Coach K and Duke.
However, I digress…
Ewing spent his summer Wednesday morning in Plano, talking to local kids at Schimelpfenig before rushing off with Camp Administrator Mike Welch for yet another camp and another set of drills and exercises.
But for both Welch and Ewing, participating in these camps isn’t about just community involvement – it’s about having a love and passion for the game, for the kids and for making a difference in the lives of our future.
“Well, I can recall attending camps like this, so I know how it is when you see someone you look up to or someone you see on TV, and for them to come in and just spend some time with you it just makes your day,” Ewing said. “So, I hope I made some kids day and hopefully I was able to have some sort of impact on them n a positive impact to help them move forward in whatever they like to do, if it’s playing basketball or whatever. Hopefully they found some motivation today to work hard and be the best they can be.”
An interesting side-note about Ewing is that most of his life friends and family foresaw Daniel tossing and tucking a pigskin, rather than dribbling and dishing a Spalding.
“Most people don’t know, that don’t know me, that I was a pretty good football player,” Ewing said. “Growing up in the state of Texas, where football is huge, I was quarterback… and actually a lot of people, my family and friends that know that when I played I stopped playing in middle school and I was about to go to high school, they thought I was probably better at football than I am at basketball, so that might say a little something about how good I could have been.”
Obviously, Ewing has a good sense of humor – and so do his friends and family.
For Ewing, making the choice to stick with hoops couldn’t have been easier.
“Well, when I got to high school I wasn’t really trying to deal with that heat, man – the spring training and all that,” Ewing said with a grin.
So what is Ewing’s favorite thing about playing basketball for a living?
“It’s really how I can let loose and just be myself in a different kind of way, not a bad way, but a different personality comes out with me on the court that I’ve always been able to have fun and let loose,” Ewing said.
I’m sure that opposing teams in the Atlantic Coast Conference know all too well about Ewing’s ability to “have fun and let loose,” as the former Blue Devil helped propel Duke to the Final Four during his junior year.
And the number one thing Daniel has learned in incorporating sports to life is to work hard and to never give up.
“Pretty much, hard work goes a long way,” Ewing said. “And hard work and dedication, you know, it really pays off.”
That statement is true no matter what we’re talking about – whether it’s striving to find a cure for cancer or dreaming of playing professional sports at the next level, hard work and dedication always pay off.
If Ewing could describe himself in one word it would be, “laid-back… that’s just my personality – I’m never really too high and I never get too low – you know, I try to stay in between and try to keep a median point about things going on.”
Ewing says his role models in his life are his parents and his family, he dunked for the first time in the eighth grade, his favorite players in the NBA are Grant Hill and Ray Allen and the best teammate he’s ever had is T.J. Ford.
Ewing and Ford played high school hoops together at Willowridge High School in Missouri City, Texas where, during their four-year tenure together, Ewing, Ford and company absorbed just one loss over their entire high school careers.
In addition, Ewing was an honor roll student in high school, was a member of the 2001 McDonald’s All-American Team and went on to rack up even more accolades during his four years at the NCAA center-point of college hoops, Duke University.
Ewing arrived on Wednesday morning around 10:30, wearing casual clothes of a t-shirt and shorts along with a backwards Yankees cap to top off Daniel’s “laid-back” attitude both on and off the court.
For Ewing, attending these camps is about connecting with the kids and ensuring a life lesson has been learned (no doubt lessons he learned under Coach K).
“You just want to make a connection with the kids,” Ewing said. “It’s not really about being a leader, you just want to make a connection and make sure that they understand what you’re saying and that they have a good time.
“Unfortunately, I didn’t have a message for them today but if you have a message you just want to get your message across and make sure that it’s something they can understand and apply to their daily lives.”
On Wednesday, it was obvious that the kids loved every moment they spent with this former NCAA All-American and future NBA All-Star.
And the one piece of advice Ewing would give to a kid striving to reach the stars of the NBA would be to keep on working hard.
“One piece of advice is to keep working – you’re not always going to be the best, especially growing up you’re going to go through different periods, different games and different leagues and you’re not always going to be the best player,” Ewing said.
“And, yeah, I was a pretty good player coming up and was pretty much one of the best players, but once you left the state of Texas there’s a lot of kids out there that can play also. So, you know, it’s about hard work and to keep applying yourself and keep dreaming big – and dreams do come true.”
The whole concept to “keep on working hard” obviously worked for Ewing, especially considering Daniel had hopes and dreams of playing in the NBA since the age of three and he now proudly wears a Clippers jersey after spending four years at the top of the college basketball world at Duke.
But for Ewing, the jump from high school hoops in Missouri City to NCAA hoops with the Blue Devils wasn’t too difficult.
“I didn’t really have a problem when I was not starting my first year because I came from a background where I played with good players – you know, I played the backcourt with T.J. Ford and I had other good players around me, so I was used to not being just a good player because there were a lot of good players on my team, so that really wasn’t a big adjustment for me because I knew how to play as a team, I knew how to play a role and take a backseat and play that role – that was really easy for me,” Ewing said.
During a summer hoops round of knockout with the kids, Welch and I were leaning against the wall behind the basketball goal giving Ewing a hard time about not being able to win a single game when Mike made a comment along the lines of, “Coach Dunleavy just called – he’s wondering why you can’t win a game of knockout.”
And Ewing’s response?
“Tell him I’ve got jet-lag.”
You have to love a kid like Ewing… a kid who has played under the best of the bests in Coach K, a player that has teamed up with the best of the bests at Willowridge, Duke, and now the Clippers, and a guy with a pure passion and love for the game of basketball.
As an avid fan of Coach K and the Blue Devils, one of the last questions I asked Ewing was regarding his favorite memories at Duke.
“Now, I have a lot, but there are two that actually come to mind,” Ewing said. “One was my sophomore year when I won the MVP of the ACC Tournament and [the other was] my junior year when we went to the Final Four – that was a big accomplishment for the team and for me. Just because you go to a big school doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to reach the Final Four, you know what I’m saying? So making it to the Final Four that year was a big thing for us and for me… especially that it was in San Antonio that year, so it was close to home.”
During Ewing’s time at Duke, his best friends on the team were Dahntay Jones, who now plays with the Memphis Grizzles, and Sean Dockery, the hometown hero who sunk a near-impossible half-court shot that was nothing-but-net against Virginia Tech for Duke last season.
“That was incredible, that was just incredible,” Ewing said in reference to Duke’s miracle-maker Dockery.
So what was the best piece of advice Ewing ever heard from Coach K, one of the best motivators and leaders in the world?
“Actually, this is something he preached to us a lot – you know, he’s a great motivator and a great teacher – actually he’d always tell his guys just to stay ready,” Ewing said. “Stay ready, whether you start or not… just be ready at all times because you never know when your chance is going to come.
“And that really came into effect this year for me, since I didn’t start [for the Clippers] and in some games I didn’t play at all being a rookie and with it being my first year in the league – just whenever your time is called, be ready and go out there and make something happen. I tried to keep that in the back of my mind in the games I didn’t play that much or the games I didn’t play in [at all], you know what I’m saying?
“That’s the key though: be ready when your time is called, and you never know when that time might be – and be ready and make the most of it. If you make the most of it, then you feel good about yourself and you have better opportunities to have that time again.”
Sports Editor Denton Ramsey can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com