Friday morning at Exerfit Family Fitness on Bluebonnet Boulevard, two basketball courts hopping with 60 kids became a blur of noisy activity.
Sounds of balls bouncing and sneakers squeaking filled the gym.
A tall, slender man with a thin beard paced, moving from one court to the other, his eyes fixed on the action. A horn buzzed every so often and the action slowed, but only long enough for a new drill to begin.
Ronald Dupree, former LSU star turned NBA journeyman, envisioned this scene for years.
He saw it become a reality as he kicked off the inaugural Ron Dupree Sports & Nutrition Camp, sinking his teeth into an endeavor he hopes to make a staple of in future summers.
“It’s something I’ve been wanting to do the last three or four years,” Dupree said. “It’s one of those things that has kind of been in my heart to do.”
Dupree and other counselors, including ex-LSU teammate Collis Temple III, taught campers the fundamentals of basketball and worked with them on the mental aspects of the game.
The group talked fruits and vegetables when they weren’t discussing baskets.
Growing up in Biloxi, Miss., Dupree said he ate whatever tasted good.
He only learned as an adult how eating right could help him with his game and — more important — with his general well-being. So he aimed to give the campers a head-start.
“If they can take just a little bit of that information and have it register, I think it will be beneficial to them not only now but also down the line,” Dupree said.
Dupree, a 6-foot-7 forward, made his mark at LSU eating up rival defenses and gobbling up rebounds.
After coming off the bench as a freshman on the 2000 Sweet 16 team, he averaged 17.3 points and 8.8 rebounds as a sophomore, 16.2 and 8.5 as a junior and 15.8 and 7.8 as a senior. He wasn’t drafted out of LSU, but Dupree — who finished his college career with 1,726 points and 907 rebounds — won a spot on the Chicago Bulls roster in January, 2004 and scored 18 points in his NBA debut.
Last season, Dupree played in three games with the Toronto Raptors after spending the previous season with Telekom Baskets Bonn in Germany. He was waived by the Raptors on Jan. 5.
Dupree, 30, has played in 157 games in six NBA seasons — for five organizations.
All the twists and turns “have taught me to focus on other things besides myself,” Dupree said, and he’s happy with the life he has made away from basketball.
Dupree has been taking summer classes at LSU and is closing in on a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering. He said he is looking forward to becoming more involved in the community. He and his wife, Jamila, will celebrate their one-year wedding anniversary later this month.
But if you think Dupree is content, you’re getting the wrong impression.
“Listen,” he said, “I’m still passionate about my career and I’m still improving. I’m getting better. I’m going to continue to work, and God willing, an opportunity will present itself.”
Any opportunity in the NBA, however, will have to wait until the league’s ongoing lockout ends.
Dupree said he performed well at mini-camps with the Bulls and Bobcats following the 2010-11 season, but teams aren’t allowed to speak with players until the NBA resolves its labor dispute. In the meantime, Dupree said he is staying in shape, enjoying some rare downtime and exploring some options overseas.
“At the end of the day,” he said of the lockout, “I think you’ll see cooler heads prevail.”
In a roundabout way, the campers who bounced balls Friday and Saturday at Exerfit had the NBA’s labor issues to thank.
Dupree might not have finally made his idea a reality if he didn’t have some free time on his hands. He might not have had the free time if he was trying to make a team this summer instead of waiting for the lockout to end.
He credited Solid Ground Innovations founder Sevetri Wilson for helping him get the camp up and running.
“You want to keep kids active in the summertime anyway,” Dupree said. “It’s great to be off school, but you want to make sure you’re being productive with your time.”