No place like Oak Park for Shumpert

OPRF alum/NBA champion savors summer trips home to teach kids about basketball and life

July 11th, 2017 10:06 AM

OPRF alum/NBA champion Iman Shumpert goes 1-on-1 against a player at the annual basketball camp Shumpert hosts at his alma mater, OPRF, every summer. (William Camargo/Staff Photographer)

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Patrick Skrine

Contributing Reporter

Like so many kids growing up in Oak Park, Iman Shumpert dreamed of becoming a professional athlete. An aspiring basketball player, he idolized Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and the 6-time NBA champion Chicago Bulls.

His dream became a reality when he was drafted by the New York Knicks with the 17th pick in the 2011 NBA Draft.

Prior to joining the Knicks, he starred in college at Georgia Tech as a combo guard with NBA-level athleticism and size. He also flourished in high school as the greatest player ever at Oak Park and River Forest.

Of course, the best dreams have layers of success. As if making the NBA didn't provide enough satisfaction, Shumpert reached the pinnacle of pro basketball as a member of the NBA champion, LeBron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers in 2016.

Amid all of the wealth, fame and notoriety he's enjoyed as an NBA player, Shumpert has never forgotten where he came from. Each summer he returns to OPRF to host a youth basketball camp.

Unlike some summer camps with a pro athlete's name attached to it, Shumpert is consistently present and active at his camp. Teaching the kids about basketball with several of his OPRF hoops brethren as co-coaches, Shumpert offers the campers three days of high-level hoops that embody the current OPRF basketball motto: Huskie Havoc.

A week after winning the NBA title in 2016, Shumpert was ensconced in the familiar confines of the OPRF Field House hosting his basketball camp.

"A lot of NBA guys wouldn't even think about coming back, especially right after winning an NBA championship," OPRF basketball coach Matt Maloney said. "Iman mentioned a lot of his teammates are on vacation and enjoying it. He put that on hold to come back and give back to his hometown."

While having fun is a given at his camp, Shumpert emphasizes the importance of playing highly competitive basketball that reflects what the OPRF basketball program is all about.

"Right now I'm sweating because I just played a kid one-on-one," Shumpert said on Day 2 of his camp this year. "The kids talk trash all day, tell me why the Warriors won and tell me to stick to defense.

"It's all fun and games but when they get my attention in a one-on-one match, I want them to compete regardless of who they're playing. That's the beauty of basketball."

Coming from a family of competitive brothers, embracing the battle has come naturally for the 6-foot-5, 220-pound guard.

"I've always competed," Shumpert said. "I always wanted to beat my brothers, and even my dad. The four of us raced down the block every day. I grew up in a culture where no matter what you were doing and who you were doing it with, you must always compete."

Whether as an NBA player or coach at his camp, fun is analogous with competing and winning for Shumpert.

Another distinctive aspect of Shumpert's camp is the annual reunion shared among former Huskies.

"Man, it is special being able to coach with your best friends," Shumpert said. "This is family. These are the same guys where I remember being drafted and during the lockout they were all on the track with me.

"They ran with me, they rebounded for me and always invested in my development. That's why it's quite natural for them to take over my camp."

In addition to his summer camp, Shumpert has developed an AAU program named Made Men, which is operated by Director Quinn Peterson and Co-Director Adam Taylor.

Peterson and Taylor were high school teammates with Shumpert and remain close friends.

Made Men competes in some of the toughest national tournaments and is already producing Division 1 talent.

"With my camp and my AAU program, we've done a good job of establishing a culture where college coaches can fly into Oak Park and feel like they can scoop a player for their roster," Shumpert said. "I have trust in my brothers who run the camp and the travel program. They have shined a light on how talented our players are in town.

"I feel like college coaches will eventually hop off their Florida chairs and come to Oak Park. They can get guys from our program who we know will go to war."

Peterson and Taylor devote countless hours to the travel team and are heavily involved as coaches at Shumpert's summer camp as well.

Other OPRF alums who have excelled at the high school and college basketball levels like Phil Gary, Lamont Sanders, Jeff Dirkin and De'Angelo Speech enjoy coaching at Shumpert's camp.

Pride of Oak Park

In terms of his NBA career, time has flown by for the 27-year-old Shumpert. He's an NBA champion and six-year veteran with career averages of 7.4 points, 3.4 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.2 steals. He also finished fifth in the 2012 NBA Rookie of the Year voting with 33 total votes and one first-place vote.

 Despite multiple injuries, notably a torn ACL and meniscus on his left knee in 2012, Shumpert has established himself as a solid swingman who can score and play tough defense. He often checks bigger players defensively like stars Kevin Durant and Dirk Nowitzki.

While his name has been mentioned in several trade rumors recently, Shumpert remains unfazed.

 "It's up to the Cavs what they do with me," Shumpert said. "I had to come to Cleveland from New York. I learned real fast that it's a business and I must be prepared to adapt to any city or situation."

Shumpert feels eternally indebted to Oak Park. Efforts to give back to his hometown stretch well beyond his camp and travel team.

Shumpert comes home every summer to run a clinic with Opportunity Knocks, an organization founded by OPRF alum Mike Carmody that engages kids with disabilities in a variety of activities.

Shumpert visited the OK family July 5th to talk to the kids, play basketball and have fun.

"Oak Park gave me so much and I want to be there for the kids," Shumpert said. "Basketball is a great outlet for opportunities in life. I'm lucky to teach the game in various settings with the people that mean the most to me."

Carmody, who is very close with Shumpert, appreciates his friend's willingness to be himself and simply have fun with the kids.

"When he comes back to see us, I don't see him as an NBA player," Carmody said. "He's a regular guy and it's beautiful to watch him interact with my kids. He makes a huge impact on them in just an hour. I can't put it into words how much he means to my organization. He puts the biggest smiles on their faces."

Off from the court, Shumpert has enjoyed a blessed life as well. He's married to R&B singer and actress Teyana Taylor. She gave birth to their first child, Iman Tayla Shumpert Jr., on Dec. 16, 2015 when Shumpert delivered the baby with his bare hands in the couple's bathroom.

After Taylor unexpectedly went into labor, Shumpert tied a pair of headphones around the umbilical cord while they waited for an ambulance to arrive.

Six months later, the new family celebrated an NBA championship together.

"One of my favorite memories was seeing my daughter touching the trophy," Shumpert said. "Then she saw me kiss it and she tried to kiss it but just drooled on it."

Although Shumpert's NBA career has already taken him to New York, Cleveland and perhaps future destinations, Oak Park will always be home.

"I've learned so much on my basketball journey from all the different levels of play," Shumpert said. "I remember being one of these campers with a dream. I came from nothing and my motivation for starting and continuing this camp has been the memories in Oak Park.

"Seeing the old pictures in my mom's house, coming back to see all my coaches, and bonding with the young hoopers really puts me back in the mindset of this is where I came from."