Gary McGhee's Fourth of July weekend took an interesting turn when he landed home in Indianapolis. He expected to go home, visit with his family for a few days, then return to Pittsburgh.
As most people do when they travel, McGhee reached for his phone the second the plane landed, to let his folks know he was on his way to meet them. He noticed a voice mail message from a number that he didn't recognize. He listened to the message, and that's when his weekend plans changed. McGhee found out he was one of 23 collegiate players invited to the Lebron James Skills Academy.
"My mom and dad picked me up at the airport, and they didn't know I was talking to somebody (on the phone)," McGhee said. "As soon as I got out of the car, I told them I was going. They were excited for me. I spent two days with the family, hung out with them a little bit, then headed down to Akron."
McGhee turned around, flew up to Cleveland, then took a bus to the University of Akron campus, where he spent three days at the Lebron James Skills Academy. Because of McGhee's preliminary performance at the Amare Stoudemire camp in Chicago, he was selected as one of the best at his position to attend the James camp. Two years ago, Sam Young was invited to the same camp after his performance at the Vince Carter camp for small forwards. Young, of course, now resides with the NBA's Memphis Grizzlies.
McGhee wasn't overwhelmed by the whole process, but didn't seem to hang his hat on it either. The first thing he liked about the Lebron James Skills Academy, was the competition, and the chance to interact with several of the nations' top players.
"There was Vernon Macklin from Florida, Chris Wright (Dayton), Demetri McCamey (Illinois), Nolan Smith (Duke), Kyle Singler (Duke), Marcus Morris from Kansas. There were a lot of big names, a lot of house hold names you see all throughout, when you watch games."
McGhee, of course, was among those household names. He added that he was well prepared to participate in such a skilled camp.
"In the Big East, you play against some of the same type of players," McGhee said. "It'ss like a regular thing."
He added that the best player he went up against was Florida's Macklin--a 7-3 center--one of the few that have a height advantage over the 6-11 McGhee.
The biggest thing for McGhee, coming away from this camp, was the things he was able to pick up. NBA players such as James and Chris Paul were among some of the instructors, as were notable basketball names Jay Bilas and Fran Fraschilla. The camp is split between intense one-on-one drills, footwork drills--which McGhee says he learned a lot, followed by games, some of which include going up against the pro players.
"I didn't get to play against (James)," McGhee pointed out. "My team didn't make it that far. It was well run, and there was good competition."
As far as the things McGhee took away the most from?
"A lot of footwork stuff, skills, getting the footwork down, working on my moves, the hook shots, the jump shots," McGhee said. "It's definitely drills I can put into my workout regime."
Overall, McGhee felt being accepted into such a camp is a rewarding thing, but one he can carry throughout the rest of the summer, and in to his senior season at Pitt.
"It was a good experience, I learned a lot of things, I'm blessed to be able to go up and do (the camp)," McGhee said. "It's really rewarding--going from a guy that played limited minutes my first two years--three fouls in what was it, eight seconds, in the UConn game, to getting invited to something like that with all the top players in the nations. Hard work does pay off. It gives me a lot of confidence. It encourages me to keep working harder throughout the rest of the summer and throughout the year."