August 3, 2010

Ainge gives tips to young hoopsters

Red Claws coach gives 1st in series of clinics in Gardiner

By Bill Stewart
Staff Writer

GARDINER -- Austin Ainge stood up on a chair, a green and white basketball cradled in his hands, and prepped the kids on the final drill of the day Monday morning.

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HAPPY CAMPERS: Children takes turns during a layup drill at a basketball clinic with Maine Red Claws coach Austin Ainge on Monday morning in Gardiner. The clinic was the first of 13 the Red Claws will put on across Maine this month.

Joe Phelan

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SIGN HERE: Maine Red Claws head coach Austin Ainge sign autographs after a clinic Monday morning in Gardiner. Ainge will be holding a clinic today at Farmington.

Joe Phelan

Red Claws clinic schedule

Today: 636 Wilton Road, Farmington
Wednesday: 17 Shilling St., Brewer
Thursday: 246 North St., Houlton
Tuesday, Aug. 10: 800 Minot Ave, Auburn
Wednesday, Aug. 11: 5 Gaywalk St., Augusta
Thursday, Aug. 12: 172 Bath Rd., Brunswick
Friday, Aug. 13: 45 Portland Rd., Kennebunk
Tuesday, Aug. 17: 593 Lower Main St., Gorham
Wednesday, Aug. 18: 400 US Highway 1, Kittery
Thrusday, Aug. 19: 583 Lisbon St., Lisbon Falls
Tuesday, Aug. 24: 729 Portland Rd., Saco
Wednesday, Aug. 25: 206 New County Rd., Thomaston
all clinics start at 10 a.m.

"When I dribble the basketball, you clap," he told the young hoopsters at the Dunkin' Donuts parking lot on Bridge Street. "If you clap and I don't dribble, you're out."

The gathering of about 80 cheered. Ainge -- who coaches the Maine Red Claws of the NBA Developmental League -- was ready to begin.

He started dribbling and the kids clapped. Ainge then faked a dribble and, yes, a few kids clapped.

"You're out!" he yelled with a laugh.

Ainge and the Red Claws kicked off their free summer clinic series Monday before an energetic and enthusiastic crowd.

The clinic, sponsored by Dunkin' Donuts, will take Ainge from Kittery to Houlton this month.

Of the 10 drills Ainge put the youngsters through Monday it was the final one that elicited the most laughter.

"I fell for a lot of his tricks," said Roger Booker, 10, of Augusta. "It was hard."

Added Heidi Owen, 12 of Pittston: "That was a good one. But, yeah, I didn't do too good."

Using one fake move after another, Ainge needed a mere 10 minutes to trim the field from 80 to two before handing a prize pack to the winners.

"It was hard," said Angel Abbott, 12, of Winthrop. "It was cool, though."

Ainge, whose Red Claws finished 27-23 in their inaugural season in the NBA D-League, said he closes most camps with the game, which is designed to test one's reacting skills.

"It's our most popular game," Ainge said.

The free clinic, which will be in Farmington (636 Wilton Road) at 10 a.m. today, provided youngsters with an opportunity to pick up a few pointers.

Ainge worked the group through a series of drills with a heavy focus on defense. The Red Claws set up two basketball hoops near the front entrance of Dunkin' Donuts so the kids could shoot, as well.

The clinic opened with a simple question for the kids.

"What wins championships?" Ainge asked.

"Teamwork," answered one boy.

"Yes, and what else wins championships?" Ainge asked again.

"Defense!" yelled a few kids in unison

And with that, one of the day's first drills was underway as Ainge had each kid get into a defensive stance and hold it.

"Keep your back straight and bend your knees," Ainge said. "Let's see who can get low. Feel the burn, feel the pain. Defense wins championships. Can you feel it? Whose legs are burning? This is what it takes. It takes a little burning."

Added Booker: "They were burning. I tried to stay down as long as I could. I think it'll help me play better defense. I play basketball and I like the Red Claws, so this was cool."

Owen agreed, saying she learned a lot Monday about playing defense.

"Defense is key to the game," she said.

Ainge closed the clinic with an autograph session that also included the team's mascot, "Crusher."

"Everywhere I go in this state I am amazed by the support of the basketball here," he said.

Bill Stewart -- 623-3811, ext. 515

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