With two current and two former NBA players in the gym at the Washington Educational Services Building the former Washington High School may never have had so much talent on its court at one time.
And, that's not counting the nearly 200 boys and girls who showed up for the annual Minnesota Timberwolves Caravan and basketball clinic Thursday.
The event, which attracted participants of various ages and skill levels, was highlighted by the appearance of current Timberwolves Ryan Gomes and Corey Brewer, former player and current general manager Fred Hoiberg, former player and current broadcaster Jim Petersen and assistant coach J.B. Bickerstaff.
Three-year-old Kellan Cousino (front) and 5-year-old Cooper Cousino of Baxter stood in line to get an autograph from Timberwolves mascot Crunch at the Timberwolves Caravan and basketball clinic Thursday. Crunch (left), general manager Fred Hoiberg, assistant coach J.B. Bickerstaff and players Ryan Gomes and Corey Brewer signed autographs for all participants in the clinic. Brainerd Dispatch/Kelly Humphrey» Purchase reprints of this photo.
For more than an hour the players and coaches demonstrated and interacted with the young participants, many of whom were star-struck at the opportunity to have one-on-one instruction and conversation with a professional athlete.
After the conclusion of the event the players, coaches, and Timberwolves mascot Crunch presented the youths, and a few parents, with an autographed picture and the opportunity to autograph any other memorabilia.
This provided the opportunity for the adults and children to share a high-five, handshake, or brief conversation with the players and staff for nearly an hour after the conclusion of the camp.
It's this personal contact with fans that Gomes and Brewer especially appreciated.
"It's always a lot of fun to go around to the different cities," Brewer said. "We want a lot of fan support and we are going to need it, especially if we are going to build our program and become a playoff team consistently. We want fans from all over the state and we like working with kids anyway so it's a lot of fun to be out here."
In addition to enjoying the fan interaction, Gomes also realizes the athletes' roles as role models to the kids that they are working with.
Timberwolves forward Ryan Gomes led a group of youths in a defensive stance and shuffle drill at the U.S Bank Minnesota Timberwolves Caravan and basketball clinic Thursday at the Washington Educational Services building in Brainerd. Brainerd Dispatch/Kelly Humphrey» Purchase reprints of this photo.
"It was great," Gomes said. "The most we get out of this is when you see the smiles on the kids' faces and you look into their eyes and see that they are just happy to be in your presence. That goes a long way."
"Sometimes when you are a kid and your parents tell you to do things or someone else tells you something you might not realize it until someone you look up to tells you. When you say something they listen to it maybe a little differently. It comes with the territory of being a professional athlete"
"(The clinic) is just about giving back to the community. They support us, win lose or draw, and these kids are just happy to be here and root for the Timberwolves."
Hoiberg ran the majority of the camp, using Brewer and Gomes to demonstrate drills that the youths can use on their own to improve their skills.
"It's important to teach these kids fundamentals and teach them the right way to do things," Hoiberg said. "Whether it's footwork, defensive stance or shooting. It's all about teaching them things that they can take and improve their own game when they leave here today."
"It's a lot of fun for us to come out and work with the kids. We had a great week starting off in Mankato and heading up to Willmar and then finishing up in Brainerd where I think we have had our biggest, most enthusiastic turnout. It's been fun. We had a great group and great time here in Brainerd today."
In addition to discussing the camp, Gomes also looked ahead to the Timberwolves' prospects for next season.
"I think the team is shaping up really well," he said. "We have a nice team and you add a guy who averaged a double-double in college and a shooter in Mike Miller, in addition to the other guys, and it's a good thing.
"The teams that win at the end of the day are the teams that have been together a long time. With a young team you have to start building a nucleus and we have that."
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.