RENO - Former Wolf Pack teammates, and Northern Nevada high school legends, Luke Babbitt and Armon Johnson are back in town this week to help run the Blue Chip Basketball Camp at the Truckee Meadows Boys and Girls Club.
"We were in this exact gym, and there were older guys coming in and teaching us the game. And they pushed us to be better," said Babbitt, a Galena High School graduate.
"These things are really important I think. As a child coming up you get to see your mentors and your idols. And these are things that I'm happy to be a part of," added Johnson, a Hug High School graduate.
These two had eerily similar careers, from high school, to college, to the NBA. Both broke the Nevada State scoring record, first done by Johnson, then set the following season by Babbitt. They went on to become teammates at Nevada, and both left school early for the NBA Draft.
Babbitt was taken in the first round by the Timberwolves, then sent to Portland on a Draft-night trade. Once there, he became teammates again with Johnson, who was selected in the second round that season by the Trail Blazers.
Babbitt has had a more successful NBA career. He just wrapped up his fifth season, playing for the New Orleans Pelicans. He averaged 4.1 points and 1.8 rebounds per game off the bench, shooting 51.3% from 3-point range. That was the highest percentage in the NBA. He has averaged 4.2 points and 2.8 rebounds per game during his NBA career.
"Playing against the best in the world, playing with Anthony Davis. Every now and then you have to pinch yourself," Babbitt admitted. "But you better get use to it or they'll make you feel like you don't belong if you don't believe you belong."
Johnson played parts of two seasons in the NBA, first with the Trail Blazers, and then with the Nets. He averaged 3.3 points, 1.2 assists and one rebound per game. He has since played overseas in Kazakhstan, Spain and France. He last played in the NBA D-League with the Austin Spurs. But his goal is to get back in the NBA next season.
"Playing overseas has always been awesome. Every trip I've gone on they've treated me with hospitality and it made me miss America a lot more for sure," said Johnson. "I'm ready to get back to work so everyone knows that I still got it."
They've still got it here in their hometown. 120 kids signed up for the camp, with 30 of them taking part for free on a scholarship. All of the proceeds go to benefit basketball programs at the Boys and Girls Club.
"When I use to come here to the Boys and Girls club, we never had something like this for the youth around the area," said Johnson. "So I thought it was very important."
"I don't necessarily feel like this ultimate role model to these kids, but that's the way they look up to the NBA players," added Babbitt. "And if I can do something to help each kid out and be a good influence; that's worth it."