The opportunity for a girl to strut her stuff at Nike Camp is not an inexpensive proposition. The camp offers free tuition for players, but parents must pay to get their daughters to Indianapolis, which can mean hundreds–if not thousands–of dollars in plane tickets, plus their own hotel bills, rental cars and meals. “You see parents following kids from tournament to tournament, and you wonder how they’re doing it,” says UConn’s Auriemma. “My parents worked.”
The parents of Nicole Powell, a 6-foot-2 senior from Arizona, resisted getting on the basketball camp merry-go-round until this year. Powell’s mother, Ruth, is a recreation coordinator for the Phoenix parks and her father, Lawrence, is a supervisor in a county juvenile court system. “We couldn’t understand the cost,” says Ruth, who relented this summer because she knew it was important for their daughter to play in front of top recruiters.
Pay for the trip
The Powells told Nicole that she could attend Nike Camp but that she would have to help pay for the trip. She got a part-time job and the Powells bought their plane tickets to Indianapolis six months in advance, getting fares of $200 each. “I couldn’t have imagined doing this every summer,” Ruth says.
At Nike Camp, the Powells’ investment seems to be paying off: Nicole is playing well, and it doesn’t hurt that she has a superb transcript, which earns her the attention of coaches from Duke, Stanford, Vanderbilt and Notre Dame. Still, the Powells admit they find the process disturbing. “You see 10- and 12-year-olds going to national tournaments where coaches tell the parents, `I can get your daughter to the next level,'” Ruth says.
A prime example is Seimone Augustus, a 15-year-old basketball prodigy from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, who is attending her first Nike Camp. Augustus was just 3 when her father put a ball in her hands. She joined her first organized team when she was 4. At 10, she could slam-dunk the ball on an eight-foot basket (the standard height is 10 feet). As a seventh grader she could grab the rim. At Nike Camp, coaches are already predicting that the recruiting war for her will be “a bloodbath.”
The 6-foot-1 Augustus has a whelp-like body, but there is no mistaking the adult force with which she plays. She not only holds her own among the 16- and 17-year-olds but outclasses most of them. All eyes follow her as she changes direction in midair, then gently executes a left-handed layup.
Augustus is a quiet, self-effacing young woman who says, “Yes, ma’am,” to her Nike Camp counselor. Her mother, Kim, a bank teller, claps for the other players. By contrast, Augustus’s father, Seymore, an electrical technician at a Baton Rouge newspaper who is his daughter’s summer-league coach, sits courtside and yells, “Don’t pass! Shoot it!”
Kim and Seymore say they simply hope that Seimone’s talent wins her a scholarship to college. “That’s the goal,” Kim says. “Right now we just want to give her the opportunity to travel and to compete with the best players. It’s expensive, but it’s worth it for the exposure.”
Tara VanDerveer points at her knees. “See the scars?” she says. “They’re from begging.”