• 48°

Hangin’ with an NBA all-star

For the fourth straight year, the Theo Ratliff Activity Center served as the home for the first day of the annual Theo Ratliff Youth Basketball Camp when the event kicked off Tuesday.

“We pretty much kept the same pattern,” activity center director Ed Ward said, likening the event to its predecessors. “We have quite a number of kids and we have to utilize all three gyms (at TRAC, Demopolis High School and Demopolis Middle School). We would like to thank Demopolis City Schools for allowing us to use the gyms. With this many kids, there is no way we could do it at the Ratliff Center.”

The first day of the camp drew approximately 225 young people from all around the area. The annual camp has become a staple in the city’s summertime schedule, regularly helping hundreds of young people hone their basketball skills.

“They are very excited,” Ward said of the young people. “One of the things is they get an opportunity to talk to Theo and see he is not just some image on T.V.”

As usual, the camp’s namesake and benefactor, Charlotte Bobcats center Theo Ratliff, was in attendance on day one, making the rounds from one gym to another.

“I enjoy it. Even before I had the center I was doing this,” Ratliff said. “It has been good getting to know the kids better and them getting a chance to know me better and trying to help them understand what it takes to be successful.”

The camp, which allows coaches to work with young people on their playing ability as well as their teamwork and sportsmanship, is just one of countless events the center, with Ratliff’s backing, uses to help enhance the community around it.

“Through this facility, we’ve been able to put together so many resources that have touched so many kids in all age groups,” Ward said. “This is a mecca as far as resources. We have so many resources here and it has really been a positive for our community.”

Among the programs currently underway at the center are a summer arts and crafts initiative and a swimming program. The center also offers a wide list of programs including anti-tobacco workshops, parenting classes and life skills studies.

For Ratliff, whose playing career has carried him all over the country, involvement and support in Demopolis, the town in which he grew up, remains important.

“It’s important for my kids to see where I grew up and to hear some of the stories from when I was playing and I was their age,” Ratliff said. “And for them to see the things I do personally in giving back and maybe they will want to do the same things this center does.”