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Ex-Lobo Wesley never far from the basketball court

By Rick Kretzschmar rickk@news-journal.com
June 23, 2012 at 10 p.m.


David Wesley's coaching career is momentarily in limbo, but when it resumes the former Longview Lobo standout basketball player would prefer it to be where he made his biggest splash in the sport: the professional level.

Wesley returned to Longview this weekend to host the 10th annual David Wesley Basketball Camp. The camp, which had 120 participants, concluded a two-day run Saturday at Forest Park Middle School.

Wesley is a Longview High School graduate, earning all-state honors in his graduation year of 1988. After collegiate stints at Temple College and Baylor University, winning Southwest Conference Player of the Year honors in 1992, Wesley had a 14-year career in the NBA.

Wesley played for five NBA teams: the Charlotte/New Orleans Hornets, Boston Celtics, Houston Rockets, New Jersey Nets and Cleveland Cavaliers.

Longview High School retired Wesley's jersey number (11) in 2008.

In the past two years, Wesley has been an assistant coach for the Texas Legends, a Frisco-based affiliate of the Dallas Mavericks in the NBA Development League, commonly called the D-League. Wesley said he isn't sure whether he'll work with the Legends for the 2012-13 season, but didn't appear to be worried that he wouldn't have a coaching position this fall.

"I didn't get a call from the Legends last season until September," Wesley said.

Wesley said while he would consider a coaching position at the high school or college level - he was a student manager at Baylor for the 2008-09 season while finishing up his degree - he said he would like to take coaching opportunities in the NBA as far as they will go.

Wesley said he is interested in coaching during the NBA Summer League, which will be held July 9-13 in Orlando as well as July 13-22 in Las Vegas.

Wesley worked with head coaches Del Harris this past season and Nancy Lieberman in the 2010-11 campaign. Harris was a head coach in the NBA from 1979 to 1999 for the Rockets, Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Lakers. Lieberman is generally considered one of the best-ever players in the women's game and was the first woman to coach a men's professional team when she coached the Legends.

"I learned a different way of approaching things through Del Harris. He would say, 'This is the way things have been done for years, but I don't agree with it. This is how we'll do it,'" Wesley said. "What I learned through Nancy Lieberman is always believe in yourself. She was always saying, 'I can do this.'"

Wesley went through a wave of playing-day memories on Thursday, when the Miami Heat won the 2011-12 NBA title with LeBron James winning MVP honors in the NBA Finals. Wesley was in Longview when the Heat clinched the title.

Wesley and James were teammates in the 2006-07 season with the Cavaliers, a season when Cleveland advanced to the NBA Finals before being swept by the San Antonio Spurs. Wesley said he hasn't kept in touch with James, and only keeps regular communication with a handful of his former NBA teammates, but wishes James well.

"You remember the feelings you had when the streets outside the arenas were filled with people in 2007," Wesley said. "I'm happy for LeBron. He played the type of game he needed to, and I hope he can keep it going to get the second, third and fourth titles."

Wesley said his main focus these days is his family and The David Wesley Foundation, which specializes in helping youth and humanitarian relief. The foundation provided the expenses for this weekend's campers, allowing them to attend for free.

Wesley said an ongoing concern is how young people manage finances. "A lot of people like to charge things and pay for it later. I guess it's the American way," Wesley said. "But 90 percent of people don't have savings, and if kids keep charging for things they'll end up $5,000 in debt, or worse."

Wesley said he is proud of how the Longview community has helped his camp last a decade, giving area coaches and volunteers most of the credit for its length. Wesley said while he has been tempted to start other camps in other locations, such as where he played in the NBA, he plans to have Longview be the lone site, and he hopes to keep it going at least 20 more years if he can.

This has provided Wesley another avenue to teach. One student this weekend was Zoe Payne, a seventh-grader from Marshall who is home schooled. On Saturday, Wesley gave Payne pointers on playing defense.

"He's nice and kind. He's a great teacher," Payne said. "I'm a better defender because of him."

Despite her praise, Payne said basketball is her third favorite sport, behind soccer and softball.

Yet if the memories of Wesley's work fade with time, his love of the game may stick with Payne.

"The main thing I wanted to do in the camp was have a good time," Payne said. "I've had the best time of my life."

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