GREECE, N.Y. (WROC) — Former Syracuse star and NBA first-round draft pick John Wallace was back at his alma mater this week hosting a basketball camp at Athena High School.
“This is where it started for me. My first camp was a Greece rec camp and to be able to take over the camp this year and add a SpeakWell component to it, it means everything to me,” said Wallace.
SpeakWell is an organization that was founded in 2019 by Patty Kennedy that helps teach leadership, growth mindset, speaking, confidence, and focus skills.
“I’m truly humbled by the amount of kids that signed up for camp,” Wallace added. “I’m truly humbled by Greece Athena opening up their doors, allowing me to run this camp here, and hopefully starting something that’s going to be going on for years to come.”
“I was delighted to see every one of these kids work so hard to demonstrate leadership skills on and off the court,” said Kennedy, who spoke to campers at the event.
The camp was held for Athena students of all ages who were thrilled to get tutelage from Wallace, who had his jersey retired by the Orange in 2020.
“It was nice taking a picture with him and also realizing he’s just like us,” said Athena rising senior Muchima Manengu. “He has a similar story and anything is possible if we just work hard.”
“At a time when it couldn’t be more essential to provide opportunities for our youth to connect and grow in meaningful ways, both through athletics and public speaking, we are so grateful to welcome home John Wallace and Patty Kennedy to support our student-athletes,” said Athena principal Kelly Flager.
It was the first camp that Wallace was able to hold in Greece after hosting several in the New York City area over the years.
“You know, giving back is everything. I know it’s a cliche, we all try and give back, but my camp is bigger than basketball,” said Wallace. “It’s a SpeakWell basketball camp that is helping them with public speaking, self-esteem, and finding their inner voice. Because the truth of the matter is the majority of their kids will use SpeakWell in their life more than they will use basketball in terms of after high school.”
“This camp was so much more than just basketball. I was amazed watching the different interactions that John and Patty had with our student-athletes,” said Athena boys basketball head coach Mike Setzer. “I think our campers learned lessons they will remember for the rest of their lives.“
“The biggest thing is remembering that basketball is fun,” said Manengu. “A lot of times I think it’s intimidating or you just work so hard that you might get tired. But coming back here and playing for fun, and also getting better out of it and just hanging out with friends was a really good benefit.”
Wallace will hold two more SpeakWell basketball camps this summer in Skaneateles and Westchester.