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|8/17/2013 ||Email this article Print this article |
|Veach relishes chance to rub elbows with NBA legend|
By Ross Eberhart
As far as birthday gifts go, this one is going to be tough to beat.
A basketball fanatic and a huge admirer of legendary Chicago Bulls guard Michael Jordan, DeWitt resident Taylor Veach learned on her ninth birthday that she would have the opportunity to share the same court with the Hall of Famer during his annual basketball camp.
There was just one catch.
The camp was in August - eight months away from Veach's December birthday - meaning a very long stretch of anticipation.
"She had to wait and wait and wait," Taylor's mother Casey remembers. "We couldn't even talk about it this summer because she would get so worked up and excited."
The experience, though, proved to be well worth the wait as Veach was one of nearly 900 aspiring athletes to take part in last week's co-ed edition of the Michael Jordan Flight School in Santa Barbara, Calif.
"I don't think I will ever have a birthday gift to match that," Taylor said. "It was very awesome."
Despite not being alive for any of Jordan's memorable playing career, Veach became enamored with the six-time NBA champion when she was in second grade, a passion that was stoked by her parents, Jason and Casey, who themselves were big fans.
So seeing her favorite player up close seemed almost too good to be true for Veach.
"I didn't really think it was him the first time I saw him," Taylor admitted.
The youngster, though, had more than a few opportunities to interact with Jordan just to make sure.
In one instance, Veach was selected by Jordan himself to shoot a free throw in front of the entire camp.
"He asked me 'do you practice shooting free throws a lot?' and I said 'yeah,'" Veach remembers. "And he said - 'I believe you.'"
Veach's shot proved to be off the mark, but she was far from the only camper to have a hard time finding their range in Jordan's sight.
The young guard also had a chance to talk with Jordan before one camp session as the all-star answered questions from a small group of players.
Jordan was not the only NBA luminary to grace the camp, either, as former Knicks and Pacers guard and current Golden State Warriors head coach Mark Jackson spoke about using basketball to enhance education and character.
Meeting Jordan, Jackson and other impressive basketball minds was thrilling, but Veach was just as happy playing on the court with her teammates.
Bumped up to compete with 10- and 11-year olds, Veach was part of a co-ed squad that included seven boys and four girls.
The team, and the camp at large, had an international flair with four of Veach's teammates hailing from outside the United States.
"During a game, I told one of my teammates to guard this girl and I'll guard that one and she just looked at me," Veach said. "So I had to talk to an interpreter on the sideline."
Passion for basketball, though, transcends the language barrier and there was plenty of it found at the camp.
When the five-day camp finally came to a close, Veach returned to Iowa with innumerable memories and one particular memento - a basketball signed by Jordan - that has quickly become a highly-regarded prize.
"We had to bring the ball back with us on the plane as a carry-on item and the entire way she wondered if the bottom of the seat was scratching it," Casey said.
And after such an unforgettable experience, the younger Veach is ready to go again.
"I have a couple of camps I want to go to," she said. "Maybe as a Christmas gift."
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