The young participants at the Golden State Warriors Basketball Camp in Napa enjoyed quite a surprise Thursday.
Toward the end of the session on a warm afternoon at Justin-Siena’s Dan Clark Gym, an actual Golden State Warrior himself strolled into the gym — one of this past season’s rookie standouts, Draymond Green.
Green spoke to the campers, threw down a two-handed dunk — on request — and stayed to take photos and sign autographs for the 80-plus campers in attendance.
He also took questions from the campers themselves.
Two of the more entertaining queries fielded by Green:
“How does it feel to be in a video game?”
And perhaps the best one ...
“Are you on the Lakers?”
Nope, it was definitely a Warrior-themed afternoon, as each camper was already decked out in a blue, gold and white jersey.
Beginning with this week’s camps at Justin-Siena and Sonoma Country Day School, the Warriors are hosting 19 different sessions around the Bay Area through Aug. 16.
Napa camp director Jeff Addiego, in his 14th summer with the Warriors, said the campers work on fundamentals in the morning sessions and then apply those lessons in 3-on-3 and 5-on-5 work in the afternoon.
“Each day we’re building on what we learned the day before, attacking one principle at a time between offense and defense,” he said.
And while the campers were busy at all times filling up the buckets on six different baskets in Clark Gym on Thursday, one could hear a pin drop once Green arrived for his motivational talk.
The Saginaw, Mich., native and former Michigan State star said he could relate to the campers sitting in front of him.
“Not too long ago I was in the same position you are,” he said.
“A lot of times in my life I was told I wasn’t good enough, but hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.”
Green stressed the importance of giving your best, all the time.
“If I’m going to the gym, why not give it 110 percent? When you leave this gym, you should be exhausted. If you’re not exhausted, you’re cheating yourself.”
He also spoke of the importance of knowing one’s role on a team.
“You can’t be great at everything. LeBron (James) and Kobe (Bryant) are about as close to great as you can get. But it’s not my job to go out and score 35 points. That’s why you’ve got (teammates) Steph (Curry), Klay (Thompson), Harrison (Barnes) and David Lee,” he said.
Instead, he said it’s important to focus on what you can do well.
“Find out what you’re good at and be great at it,” he said.
Speaking of James, Green had one of the highlights of his rookie season in a Dec. 12 game in Miami, hitting a lay-up with just 0.9 seconds left to give the Warriors a 97-95 victory.
That moment, said Green on Thursday, was eventually topped by his double-double of 16 points and 10 rebounds in a Game 6 series-clinching win over Denver in the first round of the 2012-13 NBA Playoffs.
For the season, the 6-foot-7, 230-pound Green served as a regular member of coach Mark Jackson’s rotation, averaging 2.9 points and 3.3 rebounds per game.
In college, Green led the Spartans to two Final Four appearances and a Big Ten Tournament championship in 2012, finishing his career as one of just three players with 1,000 career points and 1,000 career rebounds.
He was the Big 10 Conference Sixth Man of the Year as a sophomore and earned consensus All-American and NABC National Player of the Year honors as a senior.
The Warriors then selected Green in the second round of the 2012 NBA Draft, the 35th pick overall.
Whereas many second-round picks don’t even make their respective teams’ rosters, Green established himself as a reliable reserve and evolved into what Addiego described to the campers as “the steal of the draft.”
“It was a great experience,” said Green of his rookie season, “being able to come in to a successful team and have an impact. It’s not what I expected, because people didn’t have a lot of expectations for us as a team or for me as a player.”
After eliminating Denver, the Warriors were ousted in six games by San Antonio, though most of the games in the series could have gone either way.
Those would be the same Spurs who are currently battling James and the Heat for the NBA championship.
“I think about that every time I see (the Spurs on TV),” said Green of the Warriors’ close call with San Antonio.
“At the end of the day that’s a championship team that’s been great for a long time, so we’re not going to keep kicking ourselves about not beating them. It’s definitely something for us to grow on.”
When asked by one of the campers who his best friend is among the Warriors, Green couldn’t single out a specific player (though he did credit Jarrett Jack for being a good veteran mentor).
“One thing about our team is that all of us are close. That was a big part of our success this year,” he said.
For now, while the Warriors are on vacation, Green gets a chance to experience things like summer camp in Napa.
“I love talking to kids. It’s one of my passions, to talk to them about putting all that work in. My high school coach used to tell us that if you can reach even one, two, three kids, it’s worth it.”
For information about Warriors Basketball Camp, visit warriors.com or call (510) 986-5310.