Patrick Patterson, power forward for the Oklahoma City Thunder, returned home to Huntington this week to help kids on the same court he used to play on.
The former Huntington High School and University of Kentucky star hosted more than 200 kids at his annual, free basketball camp, which tipped off Wednesday.
“It was awesome,” said Shane Huffman, 12, who attended the camp. “I’ve always dreamed of it and I finally got to play with an NBA player, and Patrick Patterson is my favorite player on the Oklahoma City Thunder.”
Patterson says hosting the camp is his way of giving back to the community that shaped him.
“I was raised here,” said Patterson. “The same restaurants they go to, the same schools they go to, the same neighborhoods they walk through – that was me before they were here and I made it to this level.”
Patterson helped lead the Huntington Highlanders to three-straight state championships, from 2005-2007. If you ask him, though, he wishes it was four.
“I always think about that going back to my freshman year here, when we should’ve and could’ve won my first one and then that would’ve been four in a row,” Patterson said.
Every time he steps back onto his old home court, though, he remembers the history that took place.
“All the memories just come back, of the great years that we had here, all the friends I had, all the memories I made and the championships that we won, and just all the great energy that we created off our basketball team,” said Patterson.
For some of the kids attending the camp, seeing what Patterson has accomplished, makes the dream of going pro feel much more realistic.
“Patrick went on to the NBA and I feel like I could probably go on,” said Destani Huffman, 16, who plays for Lincoln County High School. “It’s crazy that he comes back every year to his hometown and helps out. It’s very motivational.”
That’s exactly the message Patterson hopes to leave with the group.
“Whether it’s sports, or whether it’s any other job occupation, just knowing that they should never give up on their dreams, because I’m a prime example of what Huntington can produce and I want the same thing for these kids,” said Patterson.
Patterson closed out the opening day of camp by telling the kids: “Keep having fun, keep an open mind, and keep learning.”