DECATUR – RJ Walker Jr. attended Wayne Dunning’s BASIC (Brothers and Sisters in Christ) basketball camp as a kid and his and Dunning’s family have always been close.
So when Walker signed on to play basketball at the University of Idaho, a Division I school, it was obvious he would come to camp to talk to the kids and inspire them to aim high.
“I pray at night,” Walker told the youngsters. “I believe in myself and I have faith. You must have faith.
Walker’s father, Rodney Walker, runs the SkyWalker International Sports Complex, where the camp is being held, and basketball has always been a part of young Walker’s life, he said.
“I will never forget,” Walker said. “I met (Dunning) in fourth grade. He was my substitute teacher and he told us he got screwed over by Michael Jordan. And then he always told us he played basketball and I I always admired him.
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The young Walker was recruited by Idaho because during the pandemic shutdowns, schools in Illinois were among the few still playing, and when Idaho officials saw him play, they told him off. offered a place at their university.
Being away from home has been good for him, Walker said, inspiring him to devote his time to the hard work of getting ready for the gym and the weight room, sometimes twice a day. He didn’t declare a major, deciding to spend his freshman year at Idaho focusing on basketball and his required classes, though he leans toward athletic therapy as a career.
Dunning has been running the camp for 20 years, inviting youngsters to come and learn the basics of basketball and some life lessons as well. Guest speakers like Walker urge kids to stay in school, find and pursue their passion, and stay on the straight and narrow.
“The camp is a grassroots basketball camp,” Dunning said. “It’s actually a Christian basketball camp, sponsored by Faith Fellowship Christian Church (where Dunning is a pastor). We just have a lot of basketballs lying around and we’re trying to teach life skills. We teach the love of Christ. We pray in the morning and we pray at the end of the session, and we just teach them about brotherhood, unity, understanding, and the world events that are happening right now.
During Wednesday’s session Walker played a game with the kids and was generous in passing the ball and encouraging them to do most of the play, and while they were playing hard it was good competition. mood, with children watching cheering on those playing and taking turns on the floor as part of the action.
Harlei Coleman-Tate was there because her grandmother encouraged her.
“I never really had a passion for sports,” said Harlei, a student at American Dreamers STEM Academy. “I wanted to try it out to see if it was something I was interested in and if I had a passion for it, and I think it interests me and I want to improve.”
Lanae Davis, a niece of Dunning, plays basketball at Eisenhower High School, where she will be first this month.
“I went to this camp a few years ago,” she said. “I’m learning more things and learning how to stay humble and maintain my stamina. That’s what I love, learning how to maintain my stamina.
PHOTOS: Wayne Dunning’s BASIC Fundamentals Basketball Camp
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Contact Valerie Wells at (217) 421-7982. Follow her on Twitter: @modgirlreporter