BY JAMES P. HILL
SPECIAL TO THE FLORIDA COURIER
Vince Carter is known around the world as a basketball phenom out of Daytona Beach’s Mainland High School.
His acrobatic high-flying slam dunks often leave fans in awe, captivated, and mesmerized.
The 42-year-old Carter is gearing up to play his final season in the NBA. From July 15-19, he took time out of his offseason schedule to conduct his annual Vince Carter Youth Basketball Academy in Daytona Beach.
Nearly 100 students participated in the academy, which drew attracts participants from around the country, including from Arizona, Memphis, Mississippi and New Jersey.
A group of student-athletes from Brazil were there as well. Students from there have participated in the academy for years.
“The opportunity to host for many years now has been a dream come true. I think any professional player can come back to their hometown, their high school and host and provide for the community they will do it,” Carter said while he sat in front of a trophy case with his retired Mainland High School Buccaneers jersey and the 1995 FHSAA Class 6A State Championship trophy.
“It makes it even more special when your best friend is here to celebrate that championship with you. Now he’s the head coach here and it all comes full circle. It’s just great to do some great things here not only in Daytona but in this building.”
Carter’s NBA history includes stints with Toronto, New Jersey Nets, Orlando, Phoenix, Dallas, Memphis, Sacramento, and Atlanta.
FITNESS AND MORE
A building at Mainland High School known as the Vince Carter Athletic Center is where his hoop dreams were cultivated.
The academy uses the basketball platform to express the importance of education, fitness, and work ethic as cornerstones for success in life with student-athletes ages 7 through 17.
“In the basketball academy, we feel like were teaching you the entire machine. The life skill, the educational part of it, the preparation – all that stuff matters as a young student-athlete trying to step into the athletic world,” Carter said.
Joe Giddens is the Mainland High School boys’ varsity basketball coach and Carter’s close friend.
They are former Bucs teammates from the 1995 FHSAA Basketball Class 6A state championship team. This annual academy means a lot to Giddens.
“To be here, to be a part of it is awesome. To come back and be the head coach is even better. It’s just amazing,” said Giddens, who also is a former student-athlete at Bethune-Cookman University. “Vince comes back here and talk to the guys and get back in the gym; you can’t beat it.”
ACADEMY WILL CONTINUE
The students also noted the impact of the program.
Darius Devine is heading to college to study athletic training. Devine believes his experiences at the academy will help him going forward in life.
“I came to this camp 4 or 5 years ago and it’s still completely the same – people learning and I’m really proud of that,” Devine said. “Coming back here and watching all of the kids grow up and stuff really put a smile on my face. I used to be them.”
Each camper received basketball workouts, T-shirts, specialty socks, backpacks and basketball player evaluations.
Carter is still very much tied to his hometown community.
His Embassy of Hope Foundation started in 1998. The non-profit charitable organization was founded to help address the needs of children and their parents.
Carter plans to continue his annual Vince Carter Youth Basketball Academy in Daytona Beach after he retires from the NBA in Daytona Beach.
“When you walk in these doors on Monday morning, we’re hoping you leave out of here on Friday a different kid,” Carter noted. “We want your parents to feel that, and that’s why we open the doors to the family on Friday.”
1,481 NBA GAMES
Carter is working out during the offseason while preparing to sign as an NBA free agent. When Carter signs to play in the 2019-2020 season, it will be his 22nd, which would be an NBA record.
In 1,481 NBA games, Carter averages 17.2 points per games (ppg), 4.4 rebounds per game (rpg) and 3.2 assists.
During the 2018-19 NBA season, Carter played in 76 games for the Atlanta Hawks. He averaged 7.4 ppg, 2.6 rpg, and 1.1 assists per contest in 17.5 minutes of action.
Carter also mentors teammates and NBA players who want to learn from his successful journey.
Visit Vincecarter15.com for more information about Carter and Embassy of Hope.
James P. Hill is an Orlando-based freelance writer for the Florida Courier. Follow him on Twitter @JamesHill_News.