Damian Lillard credits his coaches, mentors, family and friends for guiding him on his path from Oakland, California, to the NBA.
Now he is sharing the lessons he learned along the way with a select group of 40 high school and college basketball players through a camp he developed called Formula Zero.
“Formula” refers to the combination of influences that helped develop the Portland Trail Blazers’ six-time All-star and “Zero” refers to his jersey number.
The first year of his camp began Thursday at Beaverton Hoop YMCA and concluded Saturday. On Friday, Lillard explained the origin and message of his camp, which features key people from different parts of his life as coaches and mentors.
“The reason we named it Formula Zero is because it’s something that we discovered to be a formula just from things that I’ve collected or gotten from a lot of people throughout my life,” Lillard said. “People who coached me, people who just had an impact on my life, or shared something with me or pushed me to be a certain way, do certain things that I didn’t figure out on my own.”
Lillard said the spark for the camp idea came a few years ago when his longtime trainer, Phil Beckner, encouraged him to become more vocal and share more about his experiences during offseason workouts at Weber State that included Blazers guard Anfernee Simons and Phoenix forward Mikal Bridges .
“It got to the point where Phil was like, ‘You’ve got to share more,’” Lillard said.
Lillard at first declined because he didn’t want to come off as believing he knew everything. But after spending time thinking about it, Lillard said he saw the value in passing on what he had learned from others.
It took a few years to develop the camp, Lillard said, because he wanted to do it the right way.
Coaches at the camp who have been instrumental in Lillard’s life include: Raymond Young, who coached Lillard in AAU from middle school on up. Chris Farr, who trained Lillard as a child and through the NBA draft process in 2012. Beckner, a renowned basketball trainer who has worked with Lillard since his arrival at Weber State. And form Blazers assistant coach David Vanterpool.
“They are people who are the formula,” Lillard said. “The people who touched me in ways that made me who you guys know. I’m just a product of these people.”
Also at the camp were Bridges, Simons, and former Blazers Evan Turner and Chris Kaman.
The camp includes many elite recruits, including David Castillo, a five-star guard from Bartlesville High School in Oklahoma; Jamari Phillips has five-star guard from Modesto Christian in Oakland, California; Simeon Wilcher, a five-star guard out of Roselle Catholic High School in New Jersey; Dedan Thomas Jr., a four-star guard out of Liberty High School in Nevada; and Zoom Diallo, a four-star guard out of Curtis Senior High School in Washington.
Lillard said that while many of the camp-goers have the ability to potentially reach the NBA, he wants them to learn lessons that could help keep them there longer and prepare them for other aspects of their lives.
“It’s not going to be your talent or your ability because everyone has that,” Lillard said. “It’s going to be your character, the work ethic, how you treat people, how coachable you are, how unselfish you are, how humble you are, how disciplined you are. It’s all of those things that I was pushed to be that way by different people over the course of my life.”
To drive home these points, Lillard said he wants to attend to view him more as a person who has learned from mistakes rather than as a star athlete who has everything figured out.
“I want them to feel to me because of who I am connected,” he said. “And hopefully that will influence them in a way that will make them better and make their parents’ lives easier.”
Beckner said Lillard’s level of discipline has helped him succeed and the coaches at the camp want to influence the players to adopt that same level of commitment.
“We have phenomenal players here from the college level and from the high school level, kids that he is going to be competing against in a couple of years,” Beckner said. “And we want to give them the truth. The good, the bad, the ugly, whatever it may be.”
— Aaron Fentress | afentress@Oregonian.com | @AaronJFentress (Twitter), @AaronJFentress (Instagram), @AaronFentress (Facebook).
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