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June 29, 2013
EAST CHICAGO - He was hovering.
As kids started to file out of East Chicago Central High's gym on Saturday afternoon after another successful E'Twaun Moore's Skills Camp, a gentleman in a Purdue T-shirt hardly budged.
Even when his younger son, clad in one of the camp's gray shirts emblazoned with Moore's autograph boldly in black sharpie, was ready to head out, Dad was busy tracking the camp's namesake.
And when Moore headed briefly into a side room, he was summoned out with a "Mr. Moore." And the man proceeded to tell Moore how much this camp meant to him, to his son, how much Moore meant, how thankful he was to have his son attend an event held by such a special figure.
In case E'Twaun Moore forgot, he was reminded over and over inside his old high school gym Friday and Saturday: He's quite the example for his community, in what he's already accomplished with his superstar turn at Purdue and now as a player who just completed his second season in the NBA.
Older brother Ezell Moore Jr. heard the compliments, too. And he couldn't agree more.
"It's bigger than a basketball camp," said Ezell Jr., who coordinated the camp with sister Ekeisha. "It brings something to the community. They feel like people need to see this. Even the parents were like, 'Man, I'm happy my kids get to see this, get exposed to an example, a positive role model. A guy who stayed in college all four years, who got his degree, who did it the right way. He never got in trouble.' Everything you always preach, he's kind of that kid. All the stuff that you always want your kid to be like, he ended up turning out to be that kid."
E'Twaun Moore says he appreciates the gratitude, but he is quick to say he also gets plenty from the camp, too.
"It's a fun time for me," he said. "I come from off the season where I'm just thinking about basketball and it's all work. This is a time for me to relax and have fun with the kids. It definitely brings a sense of joy just coming back to help them out."
About 100 campers turned out for Year 2, a smaller group than the first year but just as energized and just as intent to learn.
They got that with Moore breaking the days up with drills - ballhandling, shooting, etc. - and then competitions with 5-on-5 games, knockout and buzzer-beaters.
There weren't too many changes from Year 1 to Year 2, though Moore made sure to move the coaches around from station to station instead of unleashing the kids to go from place to place. Moore has learned of the short attention spans of kids ranging from third to seventh grade: His voice raised above the consistent murmur often to ask kids for "attention" or telling them to "listen."
But Moore kept control for the most part, as his steady, poised personality oozed throughout the five-hour, second day of camp. They're traits that have helped him as a point guard, and they're just more that make him special to stand in front of a group of youngsters with big dreams.
Even the girls.
In Year 1, the camp was attended primarily by boys. The gap got smaller in Year 2 with dozens of girls of all ages scattered around the gym.
"That was my goal," Moore said. "I want to let them know they have a chance, too, and they also can be whatever they want to be, be a basketball player and make it also. So it was definitely good."
And it also helped add a bit of spice to the day.
The boys and girls played together - parents were told in advance that'd be the case - and they competed fiercely. At one point in 5-on-5 play, a boy pushed the ball down the court on a fastbreak, headed for an apparent layup.
Until Brandi Norton zipped down the floor and blocked his shot from behind.
Norton, a 12-year-old originally from East Chicago but who will attend Lafayette Tecumseh Junior High next year, said being able to have a mixed camp was a plus.
"I grew up around boys, so to play with boys, it didn't really scare me," she said. "(I like it) because that's how you get better, playing with boys. I got better."
The fact she got tutored by Moore wasn't bad either.
A self-proclaimed Purdue fan - Norton said she wants to play for the Boilermakers - called the camp with Moore "fun because you don't get to see him all the time."
Not with Moore's home base now in Orlando, at least. Not with him being in Boston the year before.
But both summers, he's returned to East Chicago.
And he plans to keep doing it.
"In our area, we don't have many pros around here. Me coming back and now we got Kawann (Short), too, so me coming back, showing my face and still being around, it definitely gives them hope," Moore said.
So do the messages preached.
Moore has had guest speakers in both years of the camp. This year, they were former Purdue teammate Rob Hummel and current Magic teammate Kyle O'Quinn. Moore lets the speakers say what they'd like for the most part, but he makes sure they realize who they're speaking to, also, and likes them to cater to the group.
"Everywhere you go, you have a different audience that you approach. If you go to Merrillville, Valpariaso, some of those kids don't have the same problems we have here," Moore said. "Grades are a big issue here and staying out of trouble, so I try to make sure everyone touches that subject."
Moore is an example for that, though, too.
He didn't miss a day of school while at ECC, was an academic All-American while at Purdue and never had any off-court incidents.
"There's something about him that's real genuine," said Ezell Moore Jr. "Where he came from, his personality, how humble he is, his background, it's the whole story behind it. The people from East Chicago kind of know - this is a kid coming from the inner city who didn't have much, did his best, worked hard and look at the success he's achieved. It's just a positive story, which we unfortunately don't hear a lot of here in East Chicago. With his character, the way he carries himself and with him being able to have the success he's had, people have just been able to gravitate toward him and appreciate him."
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