EAST GRANBY, CONN. - On Saturday morning at East Granby High School, Ray Allen spoke to about 200 boys and girls from grades 1 to 12 at The Citi Ray Allen Basketball ProCamp presented by Sunny D. The entire gym was silent as Allen spoke about basketball at the camp he was sponsoring.
The young people listened to every positive word that came out of Allen's mouth. He told a story about a lesson he learned early in his playing days in the NBA for the Milwaukee Bucks. The moral of his story was to step up to challenges in order to get better and to develop a sense of team work. He challenged the campers to practice those things during the morning drills. Most importantly the lessons that Allen spoke about are life lessons.
After his talk and while the campers got organized into their drills, Allen stood at one of the baskets with a ball. The people in the gym watched Allen talk multiple shots from three-point range. The first few bounced off the front iron, but as he stepped back to the NBA three-point arc, he started to hit nothing but net. Allen showed the remaining kids in the gym that practice does make perfect and that the 39 year NBA star and UConn legend still has game.
Allen is still very popular in his adoptive home state of Connecticut. He is still surprised that after leaving UConn for the NBA in 1996 that is still this popular. Even though the Huskies have won four national championships after Allen left, he is still in many ways the face of UConn Basketball.
His popularity comes from a number of areas. At UConn, Allen won a couple of Big East regular season championships in the mid-1990s and hit the game winning shot against Georgetown in the 1996 Big East Championship Game. Allen has had an extraordinary professional career. He went on to win two NBA titles, one Olympic gold medal, made the most three-point shots in NBA history, and is a potential first-ballot Hall of Famer.
However, Allen is more than a basketball star. He fundraises for juvenile diabetes research. In addition, his Ray of Hope Foundation just donated a computer lab to Ponus Ridge Middle School in Norwalk. That is the seventh computer lab his foundation has donated to schools.
Perhaps a lot of these opportunities to give back were taught to him by Jim Calhoun. Allen did confirm on Saturday that he would be participating in Friday's Jim Calhoun All-Star Classic at Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Conn. Calhoun's event is a fundraiser for the Jim and Pat Calhoun Cardiac Center at the UConn Health Center.
Lately, Allen has been deciding his future as an NBA player. He just completed his second season for the Miami Heat, 17th overall in the NBA. Allen is a free agent and several of his former Miami teammates have made overtures for him to rejoin Mike Miller and LeBron James in Cleveland. Retirement is also an option.
"I can come back because I can, but that does not mean I have to," Allen said. "But if I don't come back, I have accomplished a lot."
When Allen retires, he spoke about a future as a coach and spending time with his family. He wants to continue working with young kids at camps like the one on Saturday.