Young athletes learn from former NBA player

Concord Christian School junior Will Morris shoots a free throw Monday while Vincent Yarbrough looks on at the War Memorial Building in Lenoir City. Yarbrough played basketball at the University of Tennessee from 1998-2002 and was the 33rd overall pick to the Denver Nuggets in the 2002 NBA draft.

Young basketball athletes in Loudon County had the opportunity to improve their skills Monday with the help of a former National Basketball Association player.

Vincent Yarbrough, a 2002 University of Tennessee graduate and 33rd overall pick to the Denver Nuggets in the 2002 NBA draft, returned to the War Memorial Building in Lenoir City to host a shooting camp for athletes in grades 2-11.

The camp was broken into two morning sessions as nearly 50 young athletes received detailed techniques on how to increase shot accuracy and selection by Yarbrough, who was a consensus Parade All-American forward in 1998 and All-SEC first team selection in 2002.

“This is a shooting clinic where they learn a new shot and the object of this thing is, for an hour and a half, we try to overtake the kid’s muscle memory from what they’ve done in the past,” Yarbrough said. “There’s a shooting system that we go by and eliminates two types of misses, but we can change their footwork. We found out that we can make them only miss to the front and to the back of the rim and then from there, there’s two corrections that go with the misses. Once you start doing the drills and the corrections, then you should start seeing a better jump shot overall.”

Yarbrough’s desire to teach young athletes how to shoot developed after missing opportunities to improve his game growing up.

He credited the speed of today’s game as another reason to learn to shoot more effectively. Yarbrough taught each player the importance of “tapping their feet” before each shot to help correct missed shots.

“As a kid, I went to camps and we did a lot of fancy drills where I went home and then you can’t use those drills without help,” Yarbrough said. “What I try to do is a step-by-step guide that kids can take and use and they can, ‘If I do this and this this way, then I at least know how to correct that and I can spend another two or three hours in the gym trying to work on that.’ It’s been fantastic because it keeps me in the gym, keeps me in the game. It keeps my mind focused. It keeps on the edge of how the game is.

“The game is a lot different than when I played,” he added. “The game is so heavily dedicated to the three-point shot that if a kid doesn’t have that opportunity and another kid does have the ability to shoot the ball, then it almost puts them at a disadvantage. That’s how the workout is orchestrated to try to get kids a true skill that they can take and use.”

David Martin, North Middle School head intermediate boys basketball coach, started holding camps in Lenoir City in 2017 and got in touch with Yarbrough, who is a Cleveland native.

“We had our first camp at First Baptist Church of Lenoir City and I had no idea what to expect,” Martin said. “It started calling for bad weather, but we had 91 kids show up to First Baptist Church in snow and ice and it just kind of showed the eagerness, the hunger that not only the kids had but the family and the parents had for their kids to be involved in something. I thought, ‘Wow, what could we do to provide more opportunities for the kids?’ So we just started doing camps and clinics and try to do eight or 12 a year and try to base it on days they’re out of school.”

Yarbrough serves as a motivator for many who attend the camp each year.

“We always try to use a local product that somebody who’s kind of been there and done what these kids are wanting to do,” Martin said. “You’ve got a local guy who was a nationally renowned recruit coming out of high school in Cleveland, played at his home school at the University of Tennessee, played in the NBA and with Kobe Bryant, played overseas — he’s done what they want to do. He looks the part a little bit better than I do, and so they listen to him a little bit closer. They love it and he loves it.”

Yarbrough plans to continue holding camps in Loudon County.

“This is what I do, this is my true love and what I’ve found after basketball,” he said. “There’s some things about this game that you miss ... but this gives me just as much joy to see kids that want a future in basketball and be able to further their basketball game and at least have some idea of what they want to do going into middle school or high school to separate them from the next player.”