Sunday, July 30, 2006

Giving Back One Last Time

By Sean Moses Staff Writer
San Gabriel Valley News

Former UCLA Bruin Tracy Murray Opens Final Basketball Camp Monday

"Some professional athletes use their immense talent as their ticket out of harsh environments, turning their backs and not looking back.

Others recognize the importance the community played in their eventual success and make it their mission to repay those who made their prosperity possible.

As far as former NBA player Tracy Murray is concerned, giving back to those in need is in his genetic makeup.

Every summer during the past 14 years, before he would go off to NBA training camp, Murray held a basketball camp at Glendora High School, his alma mater, to help local youths improve their games.

The 2006 Tracy Murray Basketball Camp, which starts Monday, will mark the final year of an event that has impacted hundreds of young athletes.

"I have a (22-month-old) son of my own and it's time to concentrate on him and my family," said Murray, 35. "For the last 14 years, I haven't been able to spend time with them. My parents spend the whole year preparing for one week ...

Fourteen years is a long time; it was a good run. We all sat down and talked about it and decided this was the last year. It takes a lot out of me. None of us are getting any younger. It's time to do some family stuff."

Murray, who lives in La Verne, is no stranger to charitable acts. Throughout his entire life, he's made an effort to return the favors he received while growing up.

"I've been giving back since I was a kid," he said. "My cousin was born with spine abifida, so we grew up with the charity in us.

"I was a chairman for a charity golf tournament in Toronto for three years. When I wound up in Washington, I still went back to Toronto to do the tournament."

Murray hasn't been alone. His younger brother, Cameron, who established himself as an outstanding high school and collegiate basketball player in his own right, was right there alongside Tracy when it came time to give back.

"It's almost like a family reunion, and that date is something we look forward to every year," said Cameron Murray, also a La Verne resident. "The two that keep this family going are my mom (Candy) and dad. My dad (Robert) starts in May, just going around putting flyers out, and my mom's at home doing all the business part of it."

According to Cameron Murray, it has become more difficult for Tracy to receive financial support for his camp since his retirement as an NBA player in 2004.

"When Tracy was in the NBA, he would be able to get sponsors," Cameron Murray said. "Since he hasn't been playing, the sponsorships haven't been there and it's been hard to fund everything.

"We didn't get into it to make money, we came to help the kids. We don't want to make the camp something that doesn't satisfy the kids. We have a reputation to uphold."

Murray started the event with the idea of creating the best basketball camp in the world, and he thinks he has succeeded. Some athlete-run basketball camps are little more than a summer day care, but the Murray family has made sure their camp is top-notch.

"We pride ourselves on being the best basketball camp in the world. Not the country - the world," Tracy Murray said. "I stay there. There are some that just come and leave. Come the first day and the last and that's it.

"I don't get paid at all. It's about our family giving back to the community. The kids are our future. We want them to be better people, not just good basketball players."

Professional basketball players visit to talk to the kids and help them with their games, but they aren't the only ones. Police officers and firemen come by to talk and share the virtues of being good people in the community.

Murray stresses the value of getting a good education and having something to fall back on if sports doesn't work out. In fact, he made himself an example of that recently.

Murray went back to UCLA, where he left early for the NBA, and graduated in June with a degree in history.

"It felt great to put an end to that chapter of my life," he said. "Even with all the money you make and all the fame you get, at the end of the day, you still need an education. I'm glad to have gotten mine."

As one chapter in their lives close, the Murray brothers remain focused on helping area youths get an upper hand on the competition.

For the past two years, Cameron Murray, 30, has been training teenagers and pre-teens individually, giving them one-on-one instruction to help them become better basketball players. His new company, Prodigy Athletic, is designed for personalized growth on the hardcourt. Tracy helps his brother in this venture.

"As Tracy's camp kept going on, kids would be disappointed that the camp filled up and kids still wanted to work," Cameron Murray said. "So we thought of this."

Even with the specialized training, the Murrays want to maintain a charitable environment. Prodigy has and will continue to give out scholarships to children in conjunction with the Pasadena Boys and Girls club.

"Prodigy is not just about Cameron and Tracy," Cameron Murray said. "It's going to be about the kids and helping them develop. There are a ton of kids everywhere that need help."

(reprinted with permission)


(photo credit: Greg Andersen)


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