Park City kids learn about life, basketball from Lou Hudson |

Park City kids learn about life, basketball from Lou Hudson

Lou Hudson began a lifelong love affair with basketball when he was just a little kid. After playing for his high school team in Greensboro, N.C., and for the University of Minnesota, Husdon was selected by the St. Louis Hawks in the first round of the 1966 NBA Draft. He spent the next 13 years playing for the Hawks, which relocated to Atlanta in 1968, and later for the L.A. Lakers.

After retiring from the league, Hudson knew he wanted to keep basketball in his life. He started a youth camp in Atlanta and, when he moved to Park City in 1983, he brought the camp with him.

Now, 25 years later, Hudson is still teaching camps in Park City. In 2005, a stroke threatened to prevent him from returning to what he loves to do, but Hudson wasn’t going to let a wheelchair stop him.

He returned to coaching this week for the first time since the stroke, holding the first of two sessions of camp for ages 7 to 12. Hudson says it means a lot to him to continue reaching out to kids in the community. "People worked with me when I was young. It’s a way to say thank you to the people who helped me become what I became."

The motto for Hudson’s camp is "Life skills for sports interaction." The focus, he explains, is on basic fundamentals including dribbling, shooting and passing, but the more implicit lessons, such as teamwork and cooperation, are just as important.

The camp brings together kids from communities around Park City. "It gives kids from different backgrounds something in common," says Hudson. Over the course of a weeklong camp, he watches as kids not only get better at basketball but make new friends and break down social barriers along the way.

Although his mobility is limited now, Hudson remains at the heart of the camp. He speaks to the kids each morning, introduces the drills and activities, and provides motivation throughout the day. "The coaches are my arms and legs now," he says.

Hudson, once known as "Sweet Lou" for his smooth jump shot, gives endearing nicknames to the kids in his camps. One camper, he explains, looks like Ron Howard’s character from "The Andy Griffith Show," so he calls him Opie. Another knows how to shake it, so Hudson calls him "Jelly."

The nicknames are only one of the ways that he forms a close bond with the campers. When they’re not on the court, they’re typically huddled around him, listening to one of his many stories. The kids also have plenty of questions for him, especially after watching the highlights video of his time in the NBA.

Hudson strives to pass on his wisdom and what he has learned throughout his years. "I tell the kids, ‘You just have to prepare to be the best person you can be at whatever you do. You have fun doing it, work hard and you’ll have a chance to succeed.’"

Matt Mapstone, who has helped Hudson coach the camps for more than 20 years, explains what keeps him coming back again and again. "It’s a pleasure to come do it. It’s fun to work with the kids, and you get to give back a little," he says. "Plus, we get to hear great stories from Lou every year."

Mapstone’s 13-year-old daughter, Delaney, agrees. "We learn a lot from his stories," she says. Delaney has attended the camp at least five times and hopes to play for the girls’ team at Treasure Mountain International School this year. "We also learn a lot about basketball and have fun while we’re doing it."

Hudson will hold only two camps this summer, but he plans to continue his commitment to the sport. "Basketball was good to me and I’m sharing a good experience," he says. "I’ll do this as long as it works and as long as I can."

Hudson’s next camp runs July 13-17 at the Park City Racquet Club. Campers may preregister by calling 615-5400 or register the first day of camp by showing up at the Racquet Club gym at 9:30 Monday morning. For more information, call 649-1919.

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