A line of gold-shirted children filed into the Franklin Boys and Girls Club gymnasium early Tuesday afternoon, most taking a moment to visually take in the 7-footer in the room.
Miles Plumlee without speaking a word had their undivided attention.
It wasn’t long ago the second-year Indiana Pacers forward/center sat wide-eyed as a celebrity speaker doled out life lessons to basketball campers barely taller than a press table.
Now the size-18 high-top was clearly on the other foot. And Plumlee, still something of a kid at 24, basked in the opportunity afforded him as the Pacers Summer Hoops Tour made a stop in Johnson County.
“I’m really confident doing (public speaking). I did it a lot when I was at Duke, and I grew up coming to camps like this,” said Plumlee moments before taking the court to speak.
“I just talk about hard work and perseverance. When I was in high school there weren’t a lot of people who thought I would be in the NBA. It’s about believing in yourself and not giving up.”
Instructed to sit down on one side of the midcourt stripe, the 110 campers listened intently as Plumlee covered a wide range of basketball-related topics.
Among them was the importance of listening and maintaining a certain level of focus. Plumlee, who in college played for men’s college basketball’s all-time winningest coach (Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski), couldn’t emphasize this enough.
Plumlee might not have been the most sought-after recruit coming out of Christ School, an all-male college prep school of some 250 students in Arden, NC. However, an ability to be a good listener combined with good work ethic helped Plumlee improve his skills to the point where the Pacers selected him 26th overall in the 2012 NBA Draft.
The recent departure of Tyler Hansbrough to the Toronto Raptors paves the way for Plumlee to make more of an impact as a backup frontline player in 2013-14. As a rookie he took part in only 14 of Indiana’s 81 regular-season games.
“Personally, I know I have to bring energy and rebounding to the court. Summer is the best time to get better. During the season it’s really more about the team, but what you’re doing now is going to show up in the winter,” he told campers. “You have to keep working for it or nothing is ever going to change.”
Those attending Tuesday also listened to talks from former Pacers player Darnell Hillman and one-time Franklin College men’s basketball coach and Franklin resident Bob Lovell. Pizza and soft drinks were brought in for lunch, and there were ample opportunities to lay a fist-bump on Boomer, the popular Pacers mascot.
Plumlee’s talk served as the highlight.
“I think it’s cool Miles came here because this is a once-in-a-lifetime thing,” said Greenwood resident Trevor Taylor, 12, a soon-to-be sixth-grader at Clark Pleasant Elementary School. “(Plumlee) is really nice.”
The clinic was an opportunity for boys and girls ages 8 to 14 to participate and learn basic basketball fundamentals such as dribbling, passing, defense and shooting. Presiding over the event as well as others this week at various locations was Hillman, the 6-9 power forward who in his day was recognized as much for his obscenely large afro as he was his incredible leaping ability.
Hillman played six seasons with the Pacers and was a vital cog in their ABA titles in 1972 and ‘73. He now works for the franchise as its assistant director of camps, clinics and alumni relations.
Now a fit 63, Hillman doesn’t expect today’s young Pacers fans to recognize him the way they do Plumlee. Yet the importance of basics both in basketball and life never go out of style.
“Kids today don’t relate to athletes of the past. They don’t know me from a hole in the wall,” said Hillman, smiling. “It’s about learning how to play basketball and how to build order into their life.
“Just like this building stands on a foundation, without it you have no walls or ceiling. If you reach a kid and all of this is benefiting them, then it’s rewarding.”