Jared Dudley's son is in a perfect spot: Camp Lakers in the bubble

·5 min read
Jared Dudley and his son, Justus Dudley.
Jared Dudley shares some basketball tips with his son, Juju. The 8-year-old is soaking up instruction from LeBron James, other players and coaches. (Courtesy of Jared Dudley)

A very active, angry LeBron James yelled “And One” five times Friday in the Lakers’ Game 1 rout of Denver after scoring on a drive — one for each of the Nuggets who couldn’t stop him.

And then, wearing nearly $1,000 worth of streetwear between his designer sneakers and T-shirt while sitting courtside during the Lakers’ practice Saturday, he yelled it again.

This time, the stakes, just like the players, were a little smaller.

Jared Dudley’s 8-year-old son, Justus — everyone calls him “Juju" — trailed Dion Waiters’ young son on the way to the basket, with Juju putting his hand on Dion Jr.’s back right when he shot.

“And One,” James yelled again.

But this wasn’t your typical foul, with Juju explaining that he was simply paying it forward, working with Dion Waiters Jr. on how to finish at the basket when there’s some contact.

It’s seems fitting that Juju Dudley has this attitude about him. He’s the lone enrollee in the world’s most exclusive basketball camp. The instructors are James, Anthony Davis, the Lakers coaches and his NBA father, the Dudley boys making the most of their time in the NBA bubble.

“It's the perfect age,” Jared Dudley said. “You remember it. It's an inspiration. And you see the hard work.”

The lessons on Saturday? Hall of Fame point guard Jason Kidd worked with Juju on an inside-out dribble. One of the NBA’s most respected skill development coaches, Lakers assistant Phil Handy put him through drills. And then he and Waiters Jr. — known as “Little Cheese” — beat Handy in a quick game of 2-on-1.

“Easily the world's greatest basketball camp — with the world's greatest coaches and players,” Jared Dudley said. “He's played 1-on-1 with AD and LeBron. He's doing ballhandling drills with Phil Handy. That's why, once my wife left, I decided to keep him here. I don't know how many years I’ve got left playing, and I want him to remember this.

“How would you not remember something like this, of this magnitude?”

Bringing family members to the bubble is a tricky decision, with people weighing the desire for family and friends with lengthy quarantines and real-world responsibilities still at home. Lakers coach Frank Vogel said he’s still considering whether to bring family here for the Finals, with the seven-day quarantine a good reason not to.

Jared Dudley and his son, Juju.
Jared Dudley and his son, Juju. (Courtesy of Jared Dudley)

“It's still up in the air,” Vogel said.

The NBA restart came at the right time for Dudley to bring Juju along for the once-in-a-lifetime ride. He could begin first-grade classes virtually and take advantage of the on-campus tutors available to the players' children. There’s time for video games, trips to the pool and even some martial arts classes. On top of that, Juju can be front row to watch his favorite sport played by his favorite players every other night when the Lakers are on the court.

With Dudley’s wife back home with their other children, Juju’s grandmother, Melinda, takes him to every Lakers game.

When Lakers center JaVale McGee viciously swatted a shot by Nuggets center Nikola Jokic to start Game 1, Juju jumped out of his seat and wagged his finger “No” like he was Dikembe Mutombo. He’s a part of what the Lakers are doing in Florida because the Lakers make him feel that way. After beating Houston in the second round, James walked off the court pointing at Juju, who replied by saying “nice game LeBron.”

The Lakers say anyone with energy is welcome, and the kids around the team definitely bring a lot of that. It’s part of Dudley’s philosophy as a parent, especially during the pandemic when his kids aren’t exposed to as many social situations.

“When LeBron comes out, he always talks to him. It's because he misses his sons, misses his daughter. ... Everyone says 'What up,'” Dudley said. “... But with my kids, I'm really big on kids not being shy, having personality, being vocal. Every time you come into a room, dap every one up. Say what's up.”

Saturday at practice, Juju and Little Cheese raced from open court to open court, trying to find anywhere to shoot. James, whose children aren’t with him in the bubble, watched the two play 1-on-1, while Quinn Cook and Dudley popped over when there was a break during a scrimmage.

Watching his son dribble, Dudley gave him a quick instruction on how to move his feet better.

“You can teach him a lot because he remembers everything. Good and bad. He's a total sponge. He's still at the point where he’s listening,” Dudley said. “... You teach him that now and eventually, you don't say anything. You let him figure it out.”

It’s hard to tell what kind of basketball player Juju Dudley will be. He’s still so small, his mohawk haircut so big it looks like it could tip him over at any minute.

He’s happy in the bubble because of his spot in Camp Lakers, and his dad is glad he got to enroll.

“I know he's going to be good because of his coordination,” Dudley said. “I don't know how tall he's going to be. I don't know if he's going to be great. But I know he'll be good.

“You have to want to love it and love to play and get better. And it's all he does.”