by Scott DCamp
Christian Laettner spent the first four years of a 13-year NBA career in Minnesota. During his time in Minnesota, Laettner fell in love with the state and its outdoor offerings and he makes frequent return visits as part of the Christian Laettner Basketball Academy.
“In 2010, I worked in the NBA D league for a few months,” Laettner said. “I loved it. I came home from that experience and started my own academy and I’ve been going very steady since then.”
Laettner was influenced by NBA stars like Vinnie Johnson and Rony Seikaly appearing at camps when he was in school, and Laettner’s academy is his way to give back to the sport.
The number of camps offered by the academy varies by summer, with Laettner typically offering between five and seven camps each summer.
The summer schedule includes annual stops in Jacksonville, Fla., where Laettner currently resides; Buffalo, N.Y., near his hometown of Angola, N.Y.; and in Walker for the past three years with his friend Bonnie Sea.
Other stops over the years include Brainerd-Pillager, Bemidji, Warroad, Baudette, Rainy River Community College. It was a referral from Matt Moen, a former Northland basketball player and current Pillager assistant coach, that brought the Christian Laettner Basketball Academy to Northland this summer.
The Northland Community & Technical College/Christian Laettner Basketball Academy Summer Camp will be held Tuesday, June 26 through Thursday, June 28. The first session each day, which is geared toward athletes age 8-12, will be held from 9 a.m. to noon. The second session, for athletes ages 13-18, will be held from 1 to 4 p.m.
“The Thief River camp will be really good because its three days in a row, three hours each day with different age groups,” Laettner said. “Nine hours that the kids have with me. Catching, passing, dribbling and layups are the fundamentals that will be taught.”
Laettner said defensive positioning will also be an area of focus.
“For the younger kids, we teach them how to stay between their man and the bucket,” Laettner added. “Basic stuff that you don’t think you need to teach, but you do need to teach the young player.”
Fundamentals are also a big part of the sessions for more experienced athletes, with more advanced instruction on post offense and defense, team concepts, one on one concepts, rebounding, fundamentals of offensive cutting, movement without the ball, and other high level basketball skills.
Fall is also a busy time for Laettner, leading six or seven fall programs each year. Fall sessions are typically run on Saturdays and Sundays during the timeframe between the end of fall sports and start of basketball practice.
Laettner intentionally holds most of the camps in Minnesota and Wisconsin during the summer and fall so that he can be around the things he’s most passionate about – good basketball and muskie fishing.
He credits Sol Brandys, his strength and conditioning coach while he was with the Timerbwolves, with igniting his love of muskie fishing.
“He took me up to Lake of the Woods in 1996 and I fell in love with it,” Laettner said. “In the 20 years since, I have developed an obsession.”
Laettner’s best catch was a 54-inch muskie that was caught on Lake Bemidji while fishing with Kevin Cochran. His best on Lake of the Woods is a 52-incher.
Laettner’s 13-season NBA career included stops in Minnesota, Atlanta, Detroit, Dallas, Washington and Miami. Prior to playing in the NBA, Laettner played on two national championship teams and made four final four appearances while playing for the Duke Blue Devils.
He is the NCAA Tournament’s all-time scoring leader with 407 points in 23 games, and he was the only collegian to be selected to play on the first Olympic “Dream Team” in 1992.