Five-Star Camp, Five-Star Coaches

Since 1966, the Five-Star Basketball Camp has brought together the best teachers of the game with up and coming prospects. Five-Star has hosted such prodigies as Michael Jordan, Lebron James, Carmelo Anthony, Isiah Thomas, Patrick Ewing, Grant Hill, Alonzo Mourning, and Rasheed Wallace. In all, over 320 former Five-Star campers have played at least one game in the NBA.

Many future professional stars have learned their craft from the best coaches in the game while at the legendary Five-Star camp. For years, Five-Star was synonymous with summer basketball. "Most (coaches) were either counselors or worked there," said DePaul Blue Demons coach Jerry Wainwright. "I was the only high school coach to ever run the camp for a long period of time when the old rules were in place. And of course that was before AAU basketball. So everybody went to the best camps. It was a great teaching place. I was a high school coach and I was around Chuck Daly, Mike Fratello, Rollie Massimino, and Coach (Bobby) Knight. It was a camp based on teaching."

Wainwright's associate head coach at DePaul, Gary DeCesare, also cut his coaching teeth at Five-Star. "I worked Five-Star for many, many years," DeCesare said. "I think back then, it had to do with the rules. The rules back then allowed college coaches to work (with players) and they don't now. You look back on the guys that coached Five-Star, the Hubie Browns, the Pitinos and the Jerry Wainwrights. That was back when the rules allowed college coaches to coach."

Founded and directed by hoops legend Howard Garfinkel, Five-Star has focused on teaching fundamentals. "The difference was that Five-Star, compared to a lot of other camps, was that they always stressed teaching and fundamentals," said DeCesare. "The stations were very serious. They stressed stations. Even if it rained and the courts were wet, you were still doing stations sometime during that day. It might have been on the front porch of the cabins. There was no day where you were going without teaching going on at camp. Whereas today a lot of the kids deal with just playing. It's different."

Five-Star didn't just produce future stars it was a breeding ground for coaches as well. The camp gave high school and college coaches an atmosphere where they could have an exchange of ideas and philosophies. "Coach (Rick) Pitino was a counselor when I was running it; Coach (John) Calipari was a camper," Wainwright said. "You know it was a place where every day, every single moment, people talked basketball. It was a great classroom for guys to learn."

"I remember being at Five-Star and in the room next door was John Calipari, when he was at assistant at Pitt," DeCesare said. "You got to bond with so many great up and coming coaches, coaches that were on the rise. Once the rules were changed and you couldn't work those camps any more, that kind of hurt young coaches coming up in the business."

For young coaches, Five-Star was the place to be in the summer. "You'd do four or five stations in the morning," DeCesare recalled. "You'd go to one station and you'd have Chuck Daly, you'd go to the next station and you'd have Rick Pitino. You could learn. That's what I remember. The camps were so hard to get into. You had to wait just to be able to get into the camps to work. I went up one year just to go to the stations and watch. I couldn't work, but I went up to watch."

Somewhere along the way the rules changed for summer basketball. NCAA coaches couldn't work with young players any longer. The sneaker companies took over summer basketball and the focus changed from a teaching/learning atmosphere to being all about exposure for youngsters. "Every kid believes it's about being seen and getting the exposure and playing in front of college coaches, scouts and media," DeCesare observed.

At least there still remains one place where NCAA coaches are allowed to teach and work with a select few young players during the summer – the USA National team. Wainwright is currently assisting Washington coach Lorenzo Romar with the U-18 National team in San Antonio. Together they will be teaching a new generation of players as they prepare to take on opponents from North and South America. No doubt Wainwright will be recalling the same fundamentals and drills that he learned at Five-Star so many years ago.

We Are DePaul Top Stories