The thought of starring in a major motion picture didn't give Ray Allen fits of anxiety -- it intrigued him.
Allen, a guard for the NBA's Milwaukee Bucks, was in Augusta on Thursday to speak to 50 campers at the CSRA Spring Break Camp sponsored by his teammate, Michael Curry, and Richmond Academy alum Gerald White. The 22-year-old makes his acting debut May 1 when Spike Lee's He Got Game hits theaters.
The former South Carolina AAAA Player of the Year captivated campers, who huddled together on Richmond Academy's basketball court, as he talked about pursuing dreams. Allen encouraged the youngsters, ages 8 to 18, to try things they might not normally do.
"You never know what you'll accomplish," Allen said. "Now I've done that (acting), I didn't know I could, but since I said `I'll try' it worked out in my favor."
The purpose of the weeklong camp is to expose kids to a variety of sports. Allen agreed to make the trip to Augusta on his day off to help broaden the youngsters' minds. He said the earlier something is introduced to people, the more likely they are to give it a chance.
"I know some guys (who) won't play golf because they don't understand it," Allen said. "They're missing out on it because they won't try it."
Although he had never acted before making He Got Game, Allen jumped at the opportunity to gain a new experience.
"Something might come to me tomorrow and I'll want to try it," he said. "I always try to keep an open mind to everything because who knows what the future may hold.
"I had an acting coach with me on the set every minute of every day. I worked with her before the movie started so I knew what to expect. It's like Michael Jordan running down the court telling you what to do."
Throughout the week, campers experimented with golf clubs, played volleyball, softball, basketball and tennis. Curry didn't get much exposure to different sports until after he graduated from Glenn Hills High School.
"I never did a lot of things until I got into college," Curry said of his time at Georgia Southern. "I never tried tennis or golf. I knew I enjoyed other sports.
"Sometimes if you're not very good at a sport, you don't want to go to a specialty camp. But by going to an all-sports camp, hopefully they'll get a chance to play the other sports and maybe generate more interest."
Curry has formed Augusta Sports in Action with White to put together clinics that will offer not only sports instruction but also tutoring during the summer. Both Allen and Curry emphasized the importance of education to the campers. They said intelligence is a basic requirement in athletics.
"If you can't make a smart decision in the classroom, how can you make a smart decision on the court?" Allen asked.
It's intelligence that enabled Allen to make the transition from player to actor last summer on the set of his upcoming movie. He said he assumed the identity of his character during the making of the film and reacted to Denzel Washington not as a Hollywood superstar but as a father trying to reconcile with his son.
"If I hit him in the shoulder, I wasn't thinking, `This is Denzel, I don't want to hurt him,"' he said. "I was thinking this was a raggedy-old guy."
The two NBA players visited the Masters Tournament after speaking to campers. The duo's trip to Augusta was sandwiched into their hectic NBA schedule.
The Bucks played a home-and-home series against the Toronto Raptors on Tuesday and Wednesday. The players caught a flight from Toronto to Atlanta on Wednesday night, then drove to Augusta on Thursday afternoon. They were scheduled to fly back to Milwaukee on Thursday night and be at practice this morning.
Curry said discovering what you like and dislike by experience is a valuable lesson for all people.
"It's very important to try something new because you never know what you can do until you try," Curry said. "Getting exposed to new things takes away the kids being afraid to fail."
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