Among the jerseys on display Tuesday at McGann-Mercy High School were the mainstays of the NBA: LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony. Some of the kids went old-school, wearing the likes of John Stockton’s Utah Jazz jersey and Glen Rice’s Charlotte Hornets jersey.
One boy wore the jersey representing the man of the hour: Nate Robinson.
“We had one Knick fan that had a Nate Robinson jersey,” Robinson said. “It’s good to see other NBA jerseys in here.”
Robinson was on hand for the second of a four-day basketball camp bearing his name. About 70 kids crowded inside the Mercy gym to play basketball and learn from one of the most electrifying guards in the NBA.
While only 5 foot 9, Robinson will be entering his 10th year in the NBA and is a three-time slam-dunk champion. He currently plays for the Denver Nuggets and he spent the majority of his career so far with the New York Knicks.
Ever since his college days at the University of Washington, Robinson has hosted camps for kids in all different cities, he said. This was the first time he was in Riverhead.
“The kids look up to you and there’s no greater feeling than that,” Robinson said. “They’re sending you so much positive love and energy. That makes the world go ’round.”
Dribbling on the court amid a crowd of kids, Robinson practically blended in; some of the kids were nearly as tall as him.
Robinson recently released a book titled “Heart over Height,” which chronicles his journey from an undersized basketball player to NBA star.
“It’s a true underdog story,” Robinson said. “If you believe in yourself and you put the work in, you can do anything.”
It’s a message he tries to pass along to the kids at his camps.
Hunter Rego, an 11-year-old from Southampton who wore a Miami Heat jersey, said he learned to not be intimidated by bigger players.
“Never say you can’t, always believe you can do it,” Rego said.
Robinson said he had been keeping a journal for a long time and was excited about sharing his story. He co-wrote the book with Jon Finkel.
“It had me teary-eyed a bit reminiscing about my childhood and how I grew up,” he said.
Robinson is entering the final year of his contract with the Nuggets, so he’s not caught up in the whirlwind of free agency, which started today. But he did hear encouraging news of a friend during the camp, Sacramento Kings guard Isaiah Thomas, who reportedly signed a contract with the Detroit Pistons. Thomas played at the same college as Robinson. As Robinson posed for a picture with all the kids, he had them record a congratulations message for Thomas.
As for where James, the Miami Heat star, may land, Robinson said he’s looking forward to seeing how his free agency plays out.
The other big name on the market, Anthony, may end up choosing between two teams Robinson has played for, the Knicks and Chicago Bulls.
So what would Robinson’s advice be for Anthony?
“Follow your heart,” Robinson said.