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Retired NBA star’s annual camp continues to be big success

This week children are getting an opportunity to sharpen their skills on the basketball court courtesy of a Demopolis native who made his mark as a player in the NBA and who made it a mission to improve the lives of local kids.

Theo Ratliff, a 1991 graduate of Demopolis High School, who went on to a 16-year career in the NBA, was among the instructors at this week’s Theo Ratliff Activity Center Basketball camp. Due to its popularity, the camp is spread across three locations — the activity center, Demopolis Middle School and Demopolis High School. This year, at east 310 children are participating in the camp.

Demopolis High School graduate and retired NBA player Theo Ratliff speaks with participants of his annual basketball camp, which kicked off at three sites in Demopolis Monday — the Theo Ratliff Center, Demopolis Middle School, and Demopolis High School.

This marks the fifteenth year for the camp, which actually began while Ratliff was still an active player in the NBA. In 2011, he founded the Theo Ratliff Activity Center, a 21,685 square feet facility, with the goal of providing social and educational support for both youth and adults within the community.

Ratliff said Monday that playing basketball in the NBA opened his eyes to opportunities that children in other areas had and that he wanted to provide a foundation for similar support in his hometown.

“Playing ball and growing up here, all we had was the recreation center. Once I made it to the NBA, I saw what other communities have — Boys and Girls Clubs, YMCAs — and I was inspired to come back and put together something fruitful for the kids here,” Ratliff said.

Ratliff enjoys teaching and mingling with kids at his camp, but he also enjoys the annual opportunity to return to his Demopolis roots.

“It’s always great to come back. I’ll often bring other players and coaches I’ve worked with and we all love interacting with the kids. It’s always a good time and it gives me time with my family and friends here,” he said.

For Ratliff, his appearance at the camp each year is important as it shows the younger generation that anyone can achieve their dream.

“I’m very happy with what is happening with the camp and other things going on at the center. I love coming back and being with the kids and giving them the support and encouragement … letting them know that they can be successful,” he said.

(This article originally appeared in the Wednesday, June 13 issue of the Demopolis Times.)