Vaught's Views: Cameron Mills uses different message at camp

July 14, 2004|LARRY VAUGHT

If his ego was the reason for having a basketball camp, Cameron Mills would have stopped having his camps a few years ago.

"Most kids now have no idea who I am," said Mills, a key reserve on Kentucky's 1998 national championship basketball team. "When parents ask their kids if they want to go to the Cameron Mills Basketball Camp, they have to tell them who I am and that I really did play at UK.

"I had kids at my camp in Lexington want to know who I was and why I was there. It was kind of funny."

However, make no mistake about it, Mills has serious camps, including the one he's having here at Boyle County High School this week for 50 youngsters.


Mills feels hosting basketball camps at various sites is part of a divine calling where he can use his basketball skills to share his Christian beliefs.

"Basketball is what brings them to camp, but what they hopefully take away from camp is Jesus," Mills said. "That's the only reason I still do this. It's something I enjoy, but I do this to spread the right message.

"I have had parents come up to me and tell me they can see the spiritual growth in kids because they are reading their Bible and going to church or using something we told them in camp. Then hopefully when they come back to camp, they can use their faith even more. We hope we can be a shot in the arm to kids who already have a strong Christian belief as well as touch those who need that foundation."

Mills has also learned a few things about running a successful camp in the last six years. He's a hands-on coach, one who likes to be involved in every drill and find a way to talk almost non-stop to individual players.

He still remembers going to Kyle Macy's camp when he was young even though he had no idea who Macy was. Still, his mother would drive him and his brother from Somerset to Lexington each day of the camp because his parents felt the camp would be a worthwhile experience.

Mills appreciates parents trusting him enough to send their children to his camp whether it's the overnight camp at Asbury College or the various day camps he has. He knows how many camps of all kinds that there are now.

"When I was growing up, there were only basketball camps. Now you have chess, soccer, football, golf camps. Not to mention all the different basketball camps. Basketball camps as a whole have dropped. That's why to be able to do this and still have an impact on kids is so important to me."

His camp is unique from most, but he says there are some churches which have similar camps.

"The thing we offer is that we are willing to take our camp on the road to Danville and Pikeville so parents don't have to drive to Lexington to be part of our camp. Next year we may even go to Louisville," Mills said. "As long as we can get 30, 40 or 50 kids at a camp, we are going to keep doing this wherever we can."

Mills says he values the trust parents have in him to send their children to his camp.

"They trust us for three hours a day with their babies. I don't have kids, but I know that takes a great deal of trust. The fact they not only trust us but know their kids will get more than just basketball out of camp means a lot to me," Mills said. "The more we get away from that 1998 championship, the more I know this camp is about more than just my name."

But his name does still impress many, including one he never thought about until Tuesday.

Mills was overseeing camp drills when he thought one parent looked familiar. He approached the parent just as he was getting ready to leave and thanked him for sending his son to camp.

"He told me we had a good camp and I told him I appreciated that," Mills said. "He said he would be back in a little while because he had something to do, but that he traveled so much that he wanted to come back as much as he could this week because he didn't get to spend as much time with his son as he liked."

When Mills asked the parent what he did that involved so much travel, he found out he was talking to country music singer Eddie Montgomery. Montgomery's son, Hunter, is attending the camp.

"I thought it was him, but I told him I hated to ask that in case I was wrong," Mills said. "Then he said something that floored me. He said, 'Man, I've always wanted to meet you.' I said, 'Likewise.' It was really cool and made me really feel good that someone like Eddie Montgomery would think enough of my camp to have his son come."

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