KENWOOD — Sixth-grader Cavonta Foster walked into the Kenwood Academy gym for his first day of the Nike Rise Camp, waved to a friend he recognized, and sat down in the bleachers, puzzled.
“How long is everyone just gonna sit around for? What’s about to happen?” he asked.
About ten minutes later, he got his answer as all six feet and ten inches of NBA star Anthony Davis strolled through the gym doors to shrieks of joy.
The Nike Rise Camp, now in its third year, attracts young hoopers from the South and West Sides with the message “sport changes everything.”
Davis was in the building Friday to dish out inspiration, run drills with campers and take the winners of a scrimmage courtside to Sunday’s Chicago Sky-Indiana Fever WNBA matchup. Kevin Durant was last year’s special guest.
Some attendees had a feeling something special would happen by camp’s end. Foster is a Chicago Bulls fan who came in hoping either the entire Bulls team or “a whole bunch of NBA players” would surprise campers.
The look on his face as Davis walked out indicated he wasn’t too disappointed to see just one NBA star at the camp.
“Y’all should’ve told me Anthony Davis would be here,” Foster said. “That’s A.D.!”
Davis riffed with campers and staffers during his visit, which lasted about an hour. He didn’t take the court, but served as a referee and motivator during the scrimmage and handed out autographed size-17 shoes to kids who could answer his trivia questions.
Basketball and community building are the focuses at the Rise Camp, which features sessions like “The Other Side of the Game.” In these sessions, campers are connected with local entrepreneurs to discuss interests and career options outside of basketball.
But Davis said only one pursuit allowed him to meet and play with the campers’ favorite NBA players, who ranged from Kyrie Irving to Davis’ new teammate LeBron James to Davis himself.
“Basketball can take you through so many avenues which you’d never probably reach without the game,” Davis said. “I’m appreciative of it every day.”
Davis, an Englewood native, is working to “re-establish his roots in Chicago” ahead of the 2020 NBA All-Star Game at the United Center, a Nike spokesperson said.
He told the Chicago Tribune Saturday he’d “definitely consider” playing for the Bulls someday, and called his hometown the “Mecca of basketball.”
The Nike Rise Camp runs at Kenwood Academy High School, 5015 S. Blackstone Ave., through July 27.
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