Tim Hardaway Jr. shows Coleman kids how to dunk


Tim Hardaway Jr., fresh from his strong rookie NBA season, in which he averaged 10.2 points per game off the New York Knicks bench, headed to summer camp. No, not to the USA Basketball select team’s training camp in Las Vegas, where he spent the last few days scrimmaging with the U.S. national basketball team — but to Coleman Country Day Camp, where he demonstrated his skills before enthusiastic crowds of campers.

The First-Team, All-Rookie shooting guard appeared last Wednesday at the Merrick camp to host a series of short basketball clinics for Coleman campers throughout the day. Hardaway began by talking to more than 100 youngsters about his background. The son of Tim Hardaway Sr., a former NBA All-Star, Hardaway Jr. grew up in Miami, played NCAA ball for the Michigan Wolverines and last year was a Knicks draft pick. A handful of campers and counselors had a shootout with Hardaway (he played with a heavy handicap, trying to match each shot from twice their distance), after which the Knicks star dunked the ball a few times. Finally, the awe-struck campers gave Hardaway high-fives as they filed out of Coleman’s indoor basketball arena. Then the next group of campers, just as large as the last, rotated in. In all, Hardaway repeated the exercise seven times.

The campers, who ranged in age from 4 or 5 years old to their teens, asked questions that ranged from the innocuous, like what Hardaway’s favorite sport is, to pointed sportswriters’ queries, like whether he likes Mike Woodson or Derek Fisher better as a coach. The latter prompted a smile and a vigorous head shake.

“I can’t answer that,” Hardaway chuckled.

When a reporter later asked Hardaway whether he worried that Carmelo Anthony would leave the Knicks, Hardaway was a little looser-lipped. “Honestly, I was nervous,” Hardaway said. “I was like a fan at that time. I’m happy he’s back and [will] be a part of this organization again for a couple more years, and hopefully get this job done.”

Hardaway told campers that he has always thrived when others doubted him. He said he handles naysayers by throwing himself into training and proving his ability on the court.

“That’s what drives me,” Hardaway said. “You see it, but you don’t say anything, because you want to go in the gym and just prove them wrong. That’s what I try to do.”

Luc Bernadel, 13, said he thought Hardaway was “a cool person” who gave “great advice.” Even though Bernadel’s favorite sport is soccer, he said Hardaway’s message to “just keep trying” resonated with him.