By Larry Austin
Island Dispatch Editor
Christian Laettner's three-day weekend on the Island brought the former Duke University All-America basketball player and National Basketball Association All-Star back to his roots.
St. Stephen School hosted the Nichols School alumnus for several sold-out basketball clinic sessions for boys, girls and coaches Oct. 2, 3 and 4. Laettner said he loves schools like St. Stephen, calling it "my type of situation, my type of atmosphere. ... This is what I'm from."
Laettner told the students at the school during a Friday afternoon assembly that he grew up 40 minutes south of Buffalo and attended a similar school.
"I went to a school just like St. Stephen's," Laettner told the student assembly. "My school was called Most Precious Blood, and my father was the basketball and baseball coach at the school, and my mother was also a teacher when I was really young at the school."
Laettner said the teaching aspect of his Christian Laettner Basketball Academy appeals to him.
"I love everything about it, and that's why I've been doing my academy for five years," he said. "And I love connecting with schools like this."
The emphasis for the weekend was all basketball, all the time, focusing on fundamentals.
"With the real young kids, I'll be teaching them the most basic things: getting good at catching, passing, dribbling and layups, those four things," Laettner said. "If a young player can get good at those four things, that means they're improving. Then the older kids, we'll work on some higher level stuff."
Laettner could draw coaching influences from some of the best local coaches as well as the giants in the history of the game. He played for his father in grade school, and then played for coach Jim Kramer at the Nichols School before he played at Duke for coach Mike Krzyzewski, winning NCAA basketball championships in 1991 and 1992. He played on the Dream Team at the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona, coached by Chuck Daly.
"You're going to hear a little of my dad, a little of Coach Kramer, and a little of Coach K with the older kids, yes," Laettner said of his clinics. "And then with the older, really good players, maybe some NBA stuff, but a lot of my father with the young kids."
Laettner had advice for novice players who aspire to play the game at a high level.
"In any sport, they just have to play it as much as they can, and they have to find what sport they love more than anything, which one excites them more than anything," Laettner said. "With me, it wasn't basketball just because I was tall, it was basketball because my dad was a basketball coach, and my older brother was a basketball player, and we all just loved basketball a lot."
"And I'm going to tell them to play as many sports as they can, as many sports as they want," he said. "I don't think a kid needs to specialize in his sport until he's maybe 15 years old. From 6 to 15, play as many sports as they can and find one that they really like."