Jerrod Mustaf: Former NBA star combines life skills and hoops at hometown summer camp (‘1on1 with Jon Evans’ podcast)
WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Jerrod Mustaf is coming back to the area he used to call home. The Whiteville native and former NBA star will host a free basketball and life skills camp from June 13-17 at Thomas Academy, on the campus of the Boys and Girls Home of North Carolina in Lake Waccamaw. For Mustaf, a two-time champion while playing in international leagues, giving young men and women skills they can use on and off the court has become his life’s work since retiring from professional basketball.
“I’ve been doing basketball and life skills for about 30 years, and I’ve always felt that kids do better when you can bring life skills into the equation,” Mustaf said. “Things like cyberbullying, anti-bullying, leadership development, health and nutrition. All these things, I think, add to the overall student athlete. So, we want to see what we can do to leverage that, and to allow kids to grow, particularly in the summertime, when they have a lot of idle time.”
The camp is presented by two of Mustaf’s organizations, US Elite Basketball and the Take Charge Program. As CEO and Executive Director of Take Charge, Mustaf is carrying on the work of his father Sharr, who founded the non-profit in 1990 to help disenfranchised youth outside of Washington, DC.
“My dad’s vision was to bring an outlet to help young people, really a second chance program for young people, and it kind of evolved over the years into outlets for kids to do different things,” Mustaf said about the organization’s birth in Forestville, Maryland. “One of the things that we wanted to do is to incorporate sports into it. You find a lot of kids, if you can add sports to the equation, a lot of kids sometimes have a chance to really open up to you with sports. A lot of times when you don’t have sports, the kids close down, close up. So, this really allows kids to express themselves in a different format, and this has really been a blessing for our family, to build our legacy, with just giving back to the community.”
Jerrod Mustaf was born in Whiteville in 1969, and spent his first 13 years in southeastern North Carolina before the family moved to Hyattsville, Maryland. It’s memories of growing up in Columbus County that fueled Mustaf’s desire to host a camp here, and make it free for young men and women of all ages to attend.
“Everybody is so nice in the south, everybody is respectful, and they’re a lot nicer than they are in the north, I will say that,” he said with a smile. “The food is great, and it’s really community oriented. The one thing we did not have was a lot of outlets for sports. I felt that the kids really never experienced former professional athletes coming back to the community. So, I wanted to see if I could do something like that to help broaden their perspectives.”
The move to Maryland turned out to be one of the main catalysts for Mustaf’s basketball skills to blossom. He had spent a couple of summers in that area prior to moving to be with his father, and had attended basketball camps run by Morgan Wootten, the legendary coach for powerhouse DeMatha Catholic High School. It didn’t take long for Mustaf and his parents to learn that playing for Coach Wootten would be the best option to grow his basketball talents as his physical frame grew to 6′10″.
“When I got off the Trailways bus from Whiteville to Maryland, my game changed overnight,” Mustaf remembers. “I could barely dunk a tennis ball at Central Middle School in Whiteville. When I got off the bus the next day and went to the recreation center (in Hyattsville), I could jump and dunk with two hands. I don’t know how it happened, but it happened. From seventh grade to eighth grade was one jump (in talent level). From ninth grade to tenth grade, I was also able to make another leap in terms of talent, skills and confidence, and put all those together.”
Under Wootten’s guidance, Mustaf became a McDonald’s High School All-American in 1988, along with future NBA stars Alonzo Mourning, Christian Laettner and Shawn Kemp. Years of tireless work and practice had paid off.
“I didn’t take a day off, rain, sleet, snow, no matter what, I found a way to play basketball,” he said. “From eighth grade through the eleventh grade, not one day off. When you do something consistently, and you have passion behind it, you really have no choice to get better. I leaned on those things and pretty soon my talent level began to exceed my peers, and it was very noticeable.”
Mustaf committed to playing at the University of Maryland, with the campus being just a short walk from his family’s home. He was named third-team All-ACC after his sophomore season, and with the university administration planning a head coaching change, Mustaf entered the NBA draft and was taken as the #17 pick in the first-round by the New York Knicks. The Knicks traded Mustaf to Phoenix after his rookie season, where he would play for three years. In the 1992-93 season, the Suns advanced to the NBA Finals, where they would fall short to Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls in six games. Mustaf left the league to play internationally a year later, eventually winning championships with FC Barcelona in Spain and Prokom Trefl Sopot in Poland before retiring in 2001. During our interview, Mustaf talks about each of those stops in his career, and what he experienced along the way. I hope you enjoy the conversation as much as I did.
The focus of Jerrod Mustaf’s post-pro basketball career has been helping young men and women grow, in sports and in life. His skills and passions will be on display during the free US Elite Basketball and Life Skills Camp at Thomas Academy from June 13-17. Any young player wanting to attend can click on this link to register or contact Coach Jonathan Crawley at the school at email@example.com.
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