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July 22, 2013
Little was easy for Chris Kramer about arranging his first basketball skills camp for kids.
He was a continent away in Germany, in the midst of a competitive season for EWE Baskets, while trying to guess when he would be available to host in his hometown of Huntington.
Ultimately, he didn't return to the States until mid-June - his team advanced to its league finals - and Kramer and his family have been trying to promote his first camp go-round ever since.
It'll run concurrently with a 4H event in Huntington, as well as some AAU tournaments, but Kramer is hoping the turnout he does get Wednesday and Thursday are ready to work and have fun.
"If I can have some controlled chaos, that would be a good thing," said a laughing Kramer on Monday, days before at least 50 kids ranging from third to ninth grade join him in Huntington North's gym. "It's obviously not going to be as smooth as it could be in Year 2 or Year 3. But I am excited because the coaching, being around the kids, it's something I really do enjoy and showing them that passion that I have for this game and sharing some knowledge with them is something I really like to do, too.
"And any time you get a chance to give back, it's always a great thing. Even if it's through a basketball camp, you know the community really appreciates it and you know the kids will love it. I'm just really looking forward to it."
Kramer, whose Purdue career wrapped in 2010, will divide the camp up into sections that include work on fundamentals as well as 5-on-5 games and other competitions.
Though it is his first camp, Kramer has a good idea of how he'd like to approach it. He intends to be a roving instructor, so to speak, during the skill drills early in the day, offering encouragement and tips to the campers, and then he'll jump in for the more competitive drills.
"We're going to be motivating these kids and getting on them, trying to help them enjoy the day, get better and push themselves a little bit," he said. "I'm not just going to be a supervisor by any means."
Kramer didn't have his coaches completely lined up as of Monday, but he hopes to get some help some of his former Boilermaker teammates. Robbie Hummel is expected to at least make an appearance on Wednesday, and Dru Anthrop will offer some guidance one of the two days as well. The rest of the staff likely will consist of coaches and friends from the Huntington area.
But the goal will be the same for all involved: Foster improvement of skills and passion for the game.
"You just want them to love the game," Kramer said. "Whatever you love to do go at it as hard as you can and put your heart into it and have fun doing it. That's what I really want to come out of this. If they love to play basketball, let's work at it. You never know how good you can be. Just because we're from a small town doesn't mean there's a ceiling on how good you can be."
Registration for the camp technically ended July 14, but those interested in still attending can show up at Huntington North on Wednesday or Thursday morning with the $30 registration fee and will be allowed to participate. On Wednesday, the third-sixth graders will go from 9-4, and the seventh, eighth and ninth graders are up on Thursday.
Kramer already has re-signed to play in Germany this season, rejoining the EWE Baskets team he played for in Oldenburg in 2012-13. Kramer counted the coach, the quality of the team and the franchise - as in, he gets paid on time - as reasons to return.
Also, the franchise, having been runners-up, will have a chance to play in the most competitive leagues in Europe, either Eurocup or the Euroleague, Kramer said.
"So we'll have some better exposure, and I'll play some better teams," he said. "We made some strides in the right direction, so hopefully it'll be a good year and then kind of go from there."
The ultimate goal still is to play ball in the States, and Kramer thinks this season could be pivotal to realizing that.
"Obviously, I understand I'm getting older, but I'm still only 25 years old. You have to take what you can and try to make the best of the opportunities you have," he said. "Hopefully next summer I will have a lot of opportunities, but it all starts with having a great season coming up. If I can go out there and play well then I will have some opportunities. If I play bad, those opportunities won't be there and you have to kind of live with it. I guess it's all on me."
It's likely Boilermaker fans wouldn't recognize Kramer's game these days. Since he's left college, he said he's become a more aggressive offensive player.
He's had to, both to "show that you can do it" and also to be more versatile of a prospect.
"There's a lot of people who can defend and do a lot of those other things," he said. "I'm trying to play more of the point now, too, so try to transition yourself to give yourself the best opportunity possible, you have to do all those things. Taking those strides and turning some of those weaknesses into strengths is the key to making it to the next level."
Though Kramer's sights still are firmly set on playing the game, he has thought about what he'd like to do after his career his over.
Coaching has been considered as the next endeavor. So has doing broadcasting or analysis work.
Kramer always has been leery about finding a balance of the time commitment it takes to be a coach, especially at the college level, with raising a family. Not that he's really worried about that just yet.
"Your family, those are the people you need with you," he said. "You want to see your kids grow up. You want to see games. You want to see everything you can with your kids. That's one aspect I wouldn't want to miss."
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