Basketball athletes

Canales gives back to local basketball players

Laredoan Kaleb Canales knows the level of basketball talent in Gateway City has increased since he played Alexander decades ago. And he earned a No. 1 spot for Today’s Stars last week.

Canales, who is the first Mexican-American head coach in NBA history while coaching Portland during the 2012 season and is currently the associate head coach of the Mexican national team, hosted his camp Assist 13 annual basketball tournament last week. And for the first time in years, his foundation hosted a high school camp.

“It was a great opportunity for these kids to learn from an NBA coach,” Martin’s head coach Hector Noyola said. “Any knowledge they can take from (Canales) of his return is very beneficial.”

Throughout the two-day camp, local high school athletes from all Laredo schools participated in drills to hone their skills – from finishing around the edge to perfecting their shooting form. They went through drills that Canales would submit to NBA-level athletes.

While the drills have been beneficial, the competition part of the camp is where Canales believes the players have improved the most.

The two-day camp was divided into two sessions per day. The morning portion was drill-based while the nightcap was all game as campers were drafted into teams by camp coaches. And the competition Canales attended impressed him.

“Our goal is to serve and give back to our community and the basketball that we love so much,” Canales said. “We preach here that you have to fall in love with competition. I think the game of basketball in Laredo is at the best place it’s ever been when it comes to training and talent. We just have to put it together.

One of the athletes in attendance was United’s Diego Saldana, who has just completed an all-district first-team season as a junior for the Longhorns. And the elder found the camp extremely beneficial for him and everyone else.

“It was pretty good,” Saldana said. “We all competed. I know there are a lot of rivalries between us, but we all love basketball here.

“It’s good to learn from (Canales). His knowledge of the game is good. Getting his knowledge is good for us.

Basketball is becoming competitive all over the world. It’s becoming a year-round sport.

Canales wished someone would run a camp like his when he was growing up. Unfortunately for him, he didn’t. That’s why he founded Assist 13 – to help future generations because the mission of the foundation is to serve, contribute and develop the youth of the community, not only focusing on the fundamentals of basketball, but also emphasizing the importance of teamwork, commitment and leadership.

“I think that’s the main reason for having the foundation,” Canales said. “We always learn from our experiences and we always want to give back to things that weren’t in our time. Me and my friends back home always talk about how we wish we had a camp like this.

Canales knows that the level of basketball talent in Laredo has increased since he was in high school. He was impressed with several campers last week. But what he saw from everyone during camp, he can’t help but be excited about the future of basketball in Gateway City.

“I try to follow basketball news here in Laredo,” Canales said. “A lot of my good friends are coaches. I’m really excited to know where the talent is.

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