Jun. 23—FAIRMONT — Robert DeVaul has fond memories of his father, Bob DeVaul, always working in service of the local youth sports scene.
The senior DeVaul brought in Pittsburgh Steelers players to Mannington Middle School for exhibitions, brought in WVU players to do similar, and was very active with the state's North-South All-Star games.
So when Robert DeVaul identified a need in today's local sports scene, he had a blueprint of what to do.
"I remember when we were younger, he always brought WVU players in and did something for our teams," DeVaul said of his father. "And in this area, we've dropped the ball.
"High schools don't have camps. Fairmont State has a camp, but they're charging money, everyone's trying to make money off kids, and that's not my goal. I wanted to have a free clinic, give the kids the best experience that they could have."
DeVaul, along with his siblings Danny, Kristen, J.D. and Mary, have worked to put on the inaugural Bob DeVaul Memorial Basketball Clinic.
The free clinic is set to take place July 9 at North Marion High and will include a day of improving youngsters' skills, and showcasing great basketball by professionals and college players brought in for the day.
"We're going to have the free clinic, get to learn, get to hang out with the guys," DeVaul said. "And then we're going to watch some professionals go out there and do a 3-point contest, hopefully a dunk contest."
"The kids are really going to have good interactions and they're going to see some good basketball."
The clinic will run from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., at which point the campers will watch the pros play.
Bob DeVaul suffered from Alzheimer's disease, and passed in January this year. With his work serving as an inspiration for the clinic, the DeVauls are using the event as a charity effort as well as a place for children to enjoy the game of basketball.
Unsurprisingly, the community has responded well to the idea.
"I have to give a major shoutout — there's a lot of local businesses, especially within the Mannington area, that supported us, and a group in Fairmont that we reached out to," DeVaul said. "A lot of people are giving, there's different tiers, but even if it's $50, $100, every bit helps, and our goal is to keep it free for the kids to come."
Camp-goers will get to see quite a few renowned faces in the West Virginia sports scene and beyond. After the idea of the clinic came about, DeVaul knew he wanted to bring professional or collegiate players to the event, and the number of players booked has rapidly grown.
My brother [Danny]'s a hustler when comes to getting ahold of people," DeVaul said. "I said I wanted to have a clinic, and we started out with one or two guys and now we're up to 14 professional and collegiate basketball players coming."
Connections with WVU basketball, and a friendship with former NBA lottery pick Joe Alexander, started things off on a high note. And from there, the clinic was off and running.
Alexander is set to give a talk to the campers on what it takes to become a pro. Alexander, Truck Bryant, Brandon Watkins, Kevin Jones, Elijah Macon, and incoming freshman Josiah Harris are some of the WVU players of past and present set to appear.
Members of the Harlem Wizards, many of whom have played on the Harlem Globetrotters, are also on the billing.
As of Tuesday, only three days after the clinic was announced, DeVaul already had over 75 kids signed up for the event.
The rapid influx of sign-ups emphasized another source of inspiration for the free camp — enabling the local youth to have a positive way to spend their time.
"What I want is for the community to see that we have to provide these opportunities for the youth," DeVaul said. "Everybody that I know complains about drugs and video games, and this and that. I sat back and said 'What am I doing to make that better?' I hope everybody else in the community takes a chance to look at this and say 'What can we do to be better.'"
To sign up for the clinic, go to the Bob DeVaul Memorial Basketball Clinic Facebook page.
Reach Nick Henthorn at 304-367-2548, on Twitter @nfhenthorn_135 or by email at email@example.com.