PORTSMOUTH — On the same day, and at the same time, a former NBA head coach —and a pair of NAIA National Champions — were all in the same gymnasium.
Apparently, in THE CLUB after school inside Portsmouth High School’s Trojan Arena is the happening place to be.
For basketball lovers anyway, both boys and girls, who wish to sharpen their skills and master those drills.
That’s because THE CLUB, an idea hatched and program put together by veteran Portsmouth High School boys basketball head coach Eugene Collins, is “designed to give students a place to work on skills for free under the instruction of three staff members who put them through workouts four days a week.”
The program, which just completed its fourth week on Thursday, will run for nine weeks —but Collins said another session should take place in the summertime in conjunction with summer school.
THE CLUB is an acronym for Togetherness Helps Excellence Character Let’s Us Believe, and is held after school in the Portsmouth City School District from 4:30 p.m. until 6:30 p.m. Mondays thru Thursdays.
The three-member staff, overseen by Collins, consists of his some of his Portsmouth High assistants —Len Collins, Tom Bailey and Tanner Dutey.
“I just make sure they have the equipment they need,” said Coach Collins.
That may be true, but Collins makes sure the participants are improving upon their basketball physical skills — along with staying on track mentally, emotionally and socially.
Collins’ coaching connections recently established a day for a special guest speaker — former Indiana University standout and NBA player and head coach Butch Carter.
As a Hoosier, Carter hit the game-winning shot in the 1979 NIT Championship game was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player —prior to being named a co-captain during his senior season and helping lead the Hoosiers to the 1980 Big Ten regular-season championship.
He was the first guard to lead the Big Ten in field-goal percentage at .547, and shot .511 for his college career.
Selected as the 37th overall pick in the 1980 NBA Draft by the storied Los Angeles Lakers, Carter played for six seasons and four franchises — the Lakers, the Indiana Pacers, the New York Knicks and finally the Philadelphia 76ers.
He averaged 8.7 points per game, and for two entire decades he held the NBA record for most points in an overtime period with 14 — until eventually Earl Boykins broke that mark.
In returning to his alma mater of Middletown High School near Cincinnati, Carter coached there from 1987 thru 1989 —becoming the only individual in Ohio High School basketball history to be named BOTH Player AND Coach of the Year.
In returning to the NBA in the 1990s, Carter served as an assistant coach in the Milwaukee Bucks’ organization —prior to being promoted to head coach of the Toronto Raptors midway through the 1997-98 campaign.
Carter coached those Raptors, in the 1999-2000 season, to their first winning season (45-37) — and the franchise’s first-ever playoff appearance.
As a result, he became the first coach in NBA history to take a franchise from fewer than 20 wins to the playoffs in less than two years.
However, he has overwhelmingly remained away from coaching and speaking spotlights for the last two decades —although he first met Collins a couple of years ago at the Ohio High School Basketball Coaches Association clinic.
Collins pulled up a photograph of Carter playing for Middletown and against Portsmouth, “and we just became friends”.
“In the last 18 months, I’ve looked at film for him. I’ve shown him how I would break down film of his Hudl film. He has just been a good colleague,” said Carter. “Then when he heard I was actually in Cincinnati and not in Toronto, he asked if I could come over here for these kids. Of course, I said I would. The fact that Gene (Collins) has my cell phone number is unique.”
Carter conveyed in his basketball lesson drills used to illustrate that players must be able to dribble and shoot with their non-dominant hand, and to focus mentally by doing the dribbling drills with their eyes closed and looking straight ahead —and to not dribble either basketball above their knees.
Even Shawnee State University men’s basketball head coach DeLano Thomas and star player E.J. Onu dropped by —and briefly watched.
“It’s the whole thing of you have to grow kids’ minds with their skill levels. That’s what helps you beat good teams,” said Carter. “A lot of coaches just aren’t strong enough to keep them in it (drills) until they get it right. My suggestion is that I will keep them in it until it’s correct. But the kids get all the benefits out of it. They play better, there are more scholarships offered to them.”
But before all else, Carter said that players “must invest in themselves and care about themselves” — first and foremost.
“I don’t mind a selfish player that is going to learn all the plays, play with both hands, and is in great shape. If I get 10 of them, I have a really good team. But too many times, the kids don’t care enough about themselves and they bring things that are broken to you as a coach, and it’s hard to fix all of them during the course of the season. They really need to get those fixed in the summer,” he said. “This is the time for that.”
And, that is exactly what THE CLUB is open to — every day after school sans Fridays for prospective Portsmouth players.
For more information about THE CLUB, contact Collins or simply show up for any of the two-hour sessions.
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @BoggsSports © 2021 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved