Salukis stars reunite at Tatum’s camp

By Gus Bode

While Saluki fans were excited to play basketball with Jamaal Tatum upon his Carbondale return, Tatum was just as excited to see his former teammates.

Tatum hosted his second annual youth basketball camp at the Recreation Center Saturday. The camp drew more than 100 children between the first session of 13-year-olds and under and second session of 14 through 18-year-olds.

The children were visibly excited before and after the camp as they lined up for autographs and photographs with the players, but Tatum was just as thrilled to see his old teammates.

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‘It’s always fun to see all the older players I played with,’ Tatum said. ‘It shows me how much these players really care and what our relationship meant to them while we were playing when they take time for something like this.’

Some of his former teammates who attended the event included Stetson Hairston, Kyle Smithpeters, Jamaal Foster and Randal Falker, among others. Most of the Salukis Tatum played with have continued with basketball in some capacity.

Two-time Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year Darren Brooks was going to attend but he is playing basketball overseas, while former Salukis like Kent Williams and Hairston have started coaching careers.

Hairston was head assistant coach at Lincoln Trail Junior College and is expected to take a coaching position at another school, but he declined to say where.

The two-time All-MVC defensive team honoree said it’s great to see his former teammates succeed in basketball after college.

‘This is my family here and I’m forever going to be a Saluki,’ Hairston said. ‘I love to do things like this especially for guys in my family like Jamaal (Tatum), Tony (Young) and Randal (Falker). It’s good to see them again and how good they’re doing.’

Hairston used his coaching chops to help his old teammates teach Carbondale children Saluki basketball. The first session was for younger children and was geared toward teaching fundamentals.

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Tatum said the second session was packed with intensity and the instructors pushed the older group on the court.

Some of the attendees even had a chance to go one-on-one with reigning MVC Defensive Player of the Year Bryan Mullins. This was Mullins’ first year at Tatum’s camp and he said it was a great experience for everyone there

‘We really got into it with them in the second session but they worked hard the whole time,’ Mullins said. ‘It was a great turnout and there were a lot of great counselors here.’

While Tatum said he loves being able to host his youth basketball camp, he also said he hopes to be in an NBA camp this summer. Tatum is living in Sacramento, Calif., and working with NBA trainer Guss Armstead in hopes of making a return to the NBA after an injury prompted the Atlanta Hawks to drop him from their roster.

Tatum said making an NBA roster could mean less time for his youth camp, but he hopes a Saluki youth basketball camp can continue with or out without him.

Falker is one Saluki who wants to continue helping at Tatum’s camp as he said his second year volunteering was just as fun as last year.

‘It’s kind of been our plan all along to do stuff like this,’ Falker said. ‘We have a good time out here. You just talk to the kids and they find they’re just like you.’

Jeff Engelhardt can be reached at 536-3311 ext. 269 or [email protected]

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