Even though all good things must come to an end, nothing can take away from all the good Loren Riddick’s basketball camp has done over the last two decades.
Luckily for Blount County there are more memories to make this week.
Riddick, a fifth generation Blount County resident and William Blount High School graduate, will host the 20th and final edition of his annual free basketball camp Friday and Saturday at William Blount.
The former East Tennessee State player who had a hand in upsetting Arizona during the NCAA Tournament held his first camp in 1999. Riddick said he thought it would be a one-time thing, but after he saw some of the 57 attendees the following summer they asked when he was going to do it again.
Riddick held his second camp in 2001 and has held it every year since then. It has grown to host more than 200 boys and girls ages 8-18. The first 150 to register this year will receive a free basketball and a free T-shirt. All participants will be fed each day.
The camp is free, though Riddick asks each participant to do one good deed outside of camp. The motto of the camp, he said, is “Invest in our kids. Invest in our future.”
“I used to feel like having this massive basketball camp with 70% of them being college players,” Riddick said. “There have been some that have gone on to play in college, but I realized that a majority of them just need a great experience.”
The camp will be led by Riddick and some of his former teammates. In the past, that has included Trazell Silvers, who also played for the Harlem Globetrotters, and Calvin Talford, who won the first NCAA slam dunk contest in 1992.
Former Lady Vol national champion and Heritage High School graduate Cait McMahan will be there, too.
Many of the camp instructors had impressive college and professional careers, but Riddick said they are long removed from those days. That’s a big reason why the camp is going to end.
“We’re walking out there like Yoda on a cane now,” he joked. “When I started I could go out and hit 20, 30 threes in a row and dunk it two or three different ways. Our counselor games were epic. Now we’re winding it down. All of us have just hit 50. After 20 years, it’s time.”
The camp lasts from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Friday and from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Saturday. Registration is available at https://lorenriddickteam.com/free-basketball-camp/ . Riddick said he is looking for volunteers, too, for all aspects of the camp.
Since this is the last time he plans to do it, Riddick wants to end it with a bang.
“This day in time, the internet and smart phones have just dominated our children,” Riddick said. “I want to encourage them to get out, be active and have some fun...If you stop with the basketball and T-shirt, that’s phenomenal. Most people are charging for that, so to be able to do it for free in our community is a blessing.
“I like knowing that I have given back, done my part and touched the lives of well over 1,000 kids. It’s bittersweet, but it’s time. It’s a lot of work, but it’s a labor of love.”