It was hard to tell who was having more fun Friday morning at the Rock Island Fieldhouse - Pete Mickeal or the 145 participants in his annual basketball camp for Quad-City area youths.
"They keep me coming back. They're learning the game and I'm watching them develop skills and mature into good people," said Mickeal, who signed a two-year contract Thursday to play for the Barcelona team that won the
Spanish ACB championship earlier this month.
"We teach a lot of basketball here, but that isn't all we try to teach. We want kids to make good decisions and we want them to understand that they can all achieve great things. They can be a doctor, a teacher, or have a good job with John Deere here in the Quad-Cities if they push themselves to succeed."
Mickeal mixed that message between dribbles and drills during the first day of his two-day camp.
This is the fifth year Mickeal has hosted the free camp for area boys and girls between the ages of 9 to 18, giving something back to the hometown whose name he proudly has tattooed on his left arm.
"I'm proud to be from Rock Island and in Europe, people are always asking me about it or telling me they know about it," Mickeal said. "I let them know how good of a place it has been to me."
Today, Rock Island will return the favor.
The Rock Island City Council approved a resolution earlier this month proclaiming today as Pete Mickeal Day in the city of Rock Island in recognition of his accomplishments and his service to the youths of the community.
"It's something I would have never dreamed of," Mickeal said. "I've been very fortunate in my life to have accomplished a lot, but to be honored by my hometown is the greatest honor I've ever received. It means a lot."
Now 31 years old, the 6-foot-6 forward has experienced plenty on the basketball court.
Mickeal was an all-state player at Rock Island, a national junior college player of the year during the second of two national championship seasons at Indian Hills and an honorable mention all-American after a standout senior season at Cincinnati in 2000.
An NBA draft pick of the Dallas Mavericks, he has went on to star in leagues overseas, earning MVP honors in the Korean Basketball League and leading a league in the Philippines in scoring in addition to enjoying standout seasons in Greece and most recently, with Tau in Spain.
He averaged 12 points and 5 rebounds last season for the Tau team that finished as the runner-up to Barcelona in the Spanish ACB.
"My averages were up last year, so I keep on going," Mickeal said. "I keep working and training in hopes that I can get better. I'm doing the same things I tell all of these kids to do."
Mickeal's mother, Mae, and a number of friends help organize the camp, and Mickeal said many of his campers Friday have participated in past years.
"I look forward to seeing them from one year to the next. We have them bring their report cards when they sign up, and I want to see them do well in school," Mickeal said. "That's so important. I don't think I fully appreciated that growing up. If I can do something to help one kid understand that, help make a difference, then I will have succeeded in what I hope to do here."
Mickeal hosts RI alumni game
Pete Mickeal isn't the only former Rock Island basketball player coming home this weekend.
Mickeal is hosting the first Global Star Management Classic, an alumni game for former Rocks and named after the new basketball agency Mickeal operates. The game is scheduled for 2 p.m. Sunday at the Rock Island Fieldhouse and will be open to the public free of charge.
"I'm pretty excited about it. It's going to give me a chance to see some of the guys I grew up watching, David and Daniyal Robinson, Anthony Pulliam,'' said Mickeal, who will host a free barbecue following the game at Longview Park in Rock Island following the game.
Former Rock Island coach Duncan Reid and former Rocks player and assistant Mike Reid will coach the two alumni teams.