by Jonathan Santiago & James Ham

What Isaiah Thomas lacks in height, he makes up for in confidence.  His sense of self-worth is something kids got to witness first-hand this week at his Elite Sports Camp held in Rocklin.

Giving back seemed to be the underlying theme for Thomas and his cast of counselors the past four days.  As a kid who grew up idolizing the Seattle SuperSonics, Thomas knows what his presence means for youngsters that don’t often have the chance to meet their heroes.

CK:  What is it that drives you to put on these camps all summer long?

IT:  Me, its just putting a smile on kids faces, man.  Being that NBA player they can really relate to.  First off, because I’m just a little bit taller than them.  And second off, I always told myself once I did make it to the NBA or whatever it may have been, that I wanted to do things like this, like camps, and give back to the community and be around the kids.  Because once you even touch a kid, it’s like it changes their life.  Because I was in that position at one point and time to where I wanted to just be around an NBA player, because that’s just what I wanted to be when I grew up.  That’s the big reason why I’m doing these because I know I can put smiles on kids faces and change their lives.

CK:  Who is it that did that for you when you were growing up?

IT:  I’d say guys like Gary Payton, Shawn Kemp – the Reignman and the Glove – back in the day when the Sonics were a very good team.  Just even seeing them guys in the street, maybe even seeing them at a gas station, whatever it may have been.  Seeing them guys in person and then saying hello, them saying what’s up back to you, and them being somewhat normal, because kids don’t think you’re normal when you are.  But that’s the reason behind me doing all this, I just wanna give back and be around the kids and put a smile on their face.

CK:  At what age did you have that thought I could be an NBA player and these camps actually mean something to me?

IT:  Probably more when I got into high school, when I really started becoming pretty good at the game of basketball.  I mean I always felt I was going to make it to the NBA because being a little kid and that being my dream, once I got into high school.  And then  getting invited to like Steve Nash camps, Deron Williams camps, and really interacting with those guys and competing with them and seeing that I can compete at that type of level, that’s when it really hit me (that) I could really make my dream come true.

CK:  Just give us a rundown of where you’ve done the camps.

IT:  I’ve done camps in the Seattle area.  I’ve had two in the Seattle area, I’ve done a camp in Tacoma, my hometown.  Me and Nate Robinson did one in Hawaii called “Little Big Man Camp” that we’re trying to get off the ground.  This is my fourth camp, so this is my first one in Sacramento and it was a great turnout.  This was the last day and I can’t wait to do it every year.

CK:  Is this something you could see yourself doing long-term?

Oh yes, I want to make it annual.  I want to make it something just like I do in Tacoma – my hometown.  Because I feel like the Kings, the people of Sacramento have brought me in with open arms and this is my new home and hopefully it’s my home for years to come.  And if it is, I’m definitely going to have camps here, backpack giveaways and things like that in the community.

CK:  How do you like the venue, the Hardwood Palace?

It’s a great center.  It’s like a facility that you see kind of on the east coast, with five or six gyms in one and it’s great for our camp.  We’ve had 120-something kids and we have more than enough room for all the kids to really get active and learn things.

CK:  You’ve got Harold Pressley here – former King, went to Villanova, but he’s stuck around.  This is now his hometown.  What’s your relationship with Harold?

IT:  Actually, I met him a few weeks ago (to) partner with him to use this gym.  He’s just been an A-guy to me.  He’s been a guy that’s just built respect for and I respect him back and I can’t thank him enough for letting us use this facility.