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Ernest Hooper: Camp helps fathers, kids connect


William Castillo launched a three-pointer from the top of the key.


Andrea, his 11-year-old daughter, shooting from a slightly shorter distance, turned and gave her dad a high-five. Then she emulated dad's shooting form as son Ryan smiled from the sideline.

Castillo, 31, couldn't help but beam at a camp hosted by former NBA star Allan Houston. The scene was made more special Friday by the fact Castillo, who lives in Orlando, lost his left leg below the knee in 2007 while fighting in Iraq and wears a prosthetic.

"This is the first time they've seen me really get out and play," said Castillo, an alumnus of the Wounded Warriors Project.

It's just such moments Houston, 41, sought to create eight years ago when he started his foundation and began holding Father Knows Best Basketball Camps.

This particular gathering, a two-day event at the Orlando Sports Center, was held in conjunction with the Tom Joyner Family Reunion, a four-day weekend staged by the syndicated radio host at the Gaylord Palms Resort.

Officials with Houston's foundation had to turn people away after signing up 200 participants that included fathers and mentors paired with children.

Like Houston, these dads recognized the sport could not only be a tool to heighten bonding, but it could also impart lessons about life.

A 12-year veteran who now works for the New York Knicks, Houston knows all about teaching the fundamentals of shooting. But it's teaching the fundamentals of fatherhood that matter more for the married father of six.

"We want to make sure their lives are changed even though their games may not change," Houston said.

Houston always shared a special relationship with his father Wade, a University of Louisville assistant who helped the Cardinals to two national basketball titles and then took the head job at Tennessee. The younger Houston joined him and became a Volunteer, determined not to let his dad down.

He ended up as the school's all-time leading scorer.

Wade Houston says God put it in Allan's heart to stage such camps, and faith is an integral part of the presentation. Friend and pastor Blake Wilson of Houston led a session on "impactful impressions," citing Bible verse John 5:19, which reads in part: The son can do nothing of himself, unless it is something he sees the father doing.

Houston says good fathers must have a relationship with the father above. He operates with a sense of urgency because he says our society is having a father crisis.

"When you see gangs, they're imitating those people in the streets to fill that void," Houston said. "It's in a young man's nature to imitate a man of influence. It's equally important for a young girl to have that father or mentor show her love and equip her for relationships and what she's about to face."

Later in the afternoon, Castillo and his daughter Andrea took on the rest of the 11-and-under campers in a shooting contest. He started hitting from long distance while Andrea chipped in. When Castillo hit the winning jumper, the campers and coaches erupted. Houston rushed to congratulate them. The moment typified all that Houston tries to accomplish.

That's all I'm saying.

Ernest Hooper: Camp helps fathers, kids connect 09/02/11 [Last modified: Friday, September 2, 2011 10:31pm]
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