|May 16, 2013
Cooper Basketball camp returns to the Flathead Reservation
By Lailani Upham
Former Los Angeles Laker Michael Cooper will hold a basketball camp in July at the Joe McDonald Health and Activity Center. Cooper says the camp is not just about basketball but about success on and off the court. (Lailani Upham photo)
PABLO — Former Los Angeles Laker Michael Cooper is scheduled to hold a basketball camp at Salish Kootenai College Joe McDonald Athletic Center this summer.
Cooper says he is glad to be back in the valley after almost two decades. He says he still feels the hospitality of the people and the beauty of the land.
The “Michael Cooper Basketball Camp” will be July 31 – August; and immediately following another camp will be held in Browning from August 3 – 4.
This will be the kick-off of the “Cooper Camps.”
The camp is open to ages eight to 18 for both boys and girls.
The driving force to bringing the “The Cooper Camp” to the valley is Monty Marengo of Polson. Marengo started raising money in the fall of 2011 through a sports memorabilia auction fundraiser on E-Bay.
Copper says he wanted to start the camp on the Flathead Reservation because he had done one in the past – in 1985. Byron Scott, L.A. Laker at the time, was also a guest speaker.
“Monty has paved the way to entry into the Reservation and I think it is a great opportunity to rez kids that they usually don’t get,” Cooper stated.
Cooper’s philosophy for the camp will follow his five D’s to success, he says. Cooper says the D’s are the anecdote for success on and off the court: determination, dedication, desire, discipline, and decision-making.
“This camp is going to be more than basketball,” Cooper stated.
Subway sign in Polson welcomes and announces Michael Cooper to the area last week. (Courtesy photo)
Cooper says each day about 10 - 15 participants will get to wear the “Prove It” t-shirts. “It will have one saying on the back and the student will not be judged by their athletic ability but by their people skills or giving it their all for example.”
“You don’t have to be athletic to win an award here,” Cooper added.
During Cooper’s visit last week he took a tour on campus and at throughout the tribal complex and said he came across folks that had participated in his camp back in the 80’s.
“I was surprised at how many of them remembered and that they shared the impact it had on them through life.”
One basketball player Cooper remembered on his tour was C.T. Camel, CSKT Forestry staff. Camel told Cooper he reminisced back in the day that Cooper’s words impacted him.
“He was someone famous in the NBA and as a kid you look up to that, and you listen a bit more,” Camel stated. “He (Cooper) was very supportive,” Camel added.
The cost of the camp is $125 per participant. However, Marengo says during the visit at last week’s CSKT Tribal Council meeting to introduce Cooper to the Council, a request was made for the bill to be paid for students that cannot afford the camp on their own.
A motion was made and CSKT Chairman Joe Durglo said a discussion needed to be made and funding availability checked into and will get back with him in 10 days, Marengo said.
Marengo was informed that a source in Browning with the Blackfeet tribe is working on getting the bill taking care of for approximately 175 students.
The SKC Joe McDonald Athletic facility has the capacity to hold up 120 participants speculates Cooper and Marengo.
“Through basketball and away from basketball we want to have a positive influence on the kids,” Cooper added.
Other guest speaker will be Kurt Rambis, another retired L.A. Laker and former head coach for NBA’s Minnesota Timberwolves. Rambis also played for the Charlotte Hornets, Phoenix Suns, and Sacramento Kings.
Now that Cooper is retired from coaching basketball as well he says he would like to see the camp an ongoing annual event. “My season is changing and I want to reaffirm my commitments. I want to always come back. I don’t want to just do a camp and then leave.”
The camp is open to all, whether basketball is in the blood or not. “You do not have to know basketball. It’s all about fun and sportsmanship.”
For more information on the camp call Monty Marengo at (406) 212-1699, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.