Family ties

Cavalier stars share the bench with their fathers
Jan. 26, 2014 @ 06:22 AM

The East Rutherford basketball program has enjoyed plenty of success during the past four years, girls and boys. Throughout that time, a pair of names have become synonymous with Cavalier basketball both on the court and on the bench, Camp and Boykins.

Senior guard Rachel Camp has torched the competition for the Lady Cavaliers (14-2, 9-1 SAMC) for four seasons on her way to an ACC scholarship and nearly 3,000 career points with still nearly half of the season left to go. So far in 2012-13, she leads the team in scoring averaging 25.9 points per game.

For the boys (12-4, 8-2 SMAC), senior Devonte Boykins was part of a state championship team his freshman season and rode that success to a stellar high school career that earned him a Division 1 scholarship and the unquestioned respect of any coach and player that played with or against him.

Boykins is second on the team in scoring averaging 19.9 points per game and leads the team in both rebounding (9.1 per game) and assists (3.4 per game).

Joining the two stars on a daily basis in the gym are their fathers who both hold assistant coaching positions. Rachel's father, Ramon, is head coach Larry Ross' right-hand man for the Lady Cavaliers while Devonte's father, Robert, is a staple on the varsity Cavalier's bench.

 

Rachel's unlikely journey

Believe it or not, Rachel wasn't always dominant. She wasn't always the leading scorer. She wasn't always unstoppable. She didn't even always like the game. But after Ramon adopted Rachel and her sister when Rachel had just turned 11, her basketball career began to take shape.

"When I first started I wan't that good," Rachel said. "I never really wanted to go play but my dad just kept pushing me to go back."

Ramon and his wife, who is also Rachel's cousin, adopted Rachel in order to offer her a better home life. The connection between Ramon and Rachel was instant.

"From the moment she walked in the door we just clicked," Ramon said. "She was very shy and quiet, then I asked her the wrong question. I asked her, "Do you ever talk?" Since then she hasn't stopped."

"When I first moved in I really liked it because it was a better place and I had better opportunities. I actually had a chance to play basketball," Rachel said. "I got attached real quick because he let me do things that I wasn't able to before."

After Rachel was adopted and moved from Cleveland County to the Cliffside area, Ross discovered her and invited her to play for his AAU team.

"I used to never want to go because all those girls were so much better than me," Rachel said of the AAU program. "My daddy just kept pushing me to play and I just kept getting better."

"I give Larry [Ross] all the credit in the world. Larry Ross is why she's playing basketball." Ramon said. "She went from falling, being clumsy, getting laughed at and crying after every game to where she is now because she put in the work.

"She's a supreme athlete considering that she started from scratch. It's a big surprise."

 

Coach and player vs. Parent and child

For two star basketball players and their families, it can be hard to separate the court and the home, especially when parents and children spend so much time together in both.

"Whenever we go home, it's strictly home and we're a father and a daughter, not a coach and a player," Ramon said. "Whenever she settles down from a mistake she may have made we might talk about it then. After the game, whether it was good or bad game I don't fuss at her."

"It's nice because I don't have to worry about him in the stands yelling at me," Rachel said. "And he really can't miss a game."

For Devonte and Robert, they wouldn't have it any other way.

"It's an honor to coach my son knowing that I had a big part of the success of my child," Robert said. "Any time you can be part of that it makes you feel good."

"I feel like it's always a good thing," Devonte said of having his father on the bench. "Some parents don't even come out and watch their kid play. I'm glad my father is always there with me on the bench and always stays behind me."

As close are these two sets are to one another, both coaches rarely deal with their own child during practice.

"I find myself not really dealing with Devonte a lot," Robert said. "I hardly say anything to him, I just let the other coaches handle him. I'm here for the other guys.

"I don't just do this for Devonte either, I do this for all the guys. I played basketball and I feel that I can show them things to help them improve their game along the way."

Ramon admits that he hardly even speaks to Rachel during practice or even games, which is always Rachel's preference.

"Sometimes I tell him that I wished he would yell at me and maybe I would do even better," Rachel said. "He usually doesn't say anything because he knows Larry [Ross] is on me enough."

Ross is quick to acknowledge Rachel's greatness after every huge performance she's put together over her career, but he also understands his role in her development as a basketball player.

"I'm very hard on her and demand a lot out of her. When she does well I let her know it and when she does bad I let her know it," Ross said. "She knows I love her and she doesn't let it bother her. Ramon knows what I expect out of Rachel. He has to sit there and listen to me blast her."

As rewarding as an assistant coaching role can be, Robert sometimes wishes he could separate himself from the anxiety and stress of being on the bench. "Sometimes I wish I could be in the stands," Robert said. "I have a migraine headache after every game because I can feel the tension that the kids feel on the bench. The adrenaline makes me feel like I'm about to play myself."

 

Looking ahead

Devonte and Rachel are both set to graduate this spring and end their careers in the red and black of East Rutherford. Rachel will become a Virginia Tech Hokie while Devonte will head south and join the Georgia Southern Eagles to join his brother, DeVince (who plays at Marshall), on the college level.

For Robert, this could very well be his final season on the Cavalier bench as both of his sons will be playing college basketball.

"This will probably be my last year for the simple fact that I'll have two kids playing college basketball and I want to be able to travel and support them," Robert said.

"It'll be different at the beginning but as I grow and get more mature it'll work itself out," Devonte said.

For Ramon, his time in red and black isn't quite finished.

"I'll most likely still be here helping out Coach Ross," Ramon said. " All the girls on the team are like my daughters but Rachel knows I'll be there for her as well."

However, the coach and player relationships aren't the only connections being severed at the end of this season. Rachel and Devonte have grown together as players and will, for the first time in their careers, not share the same gym.

"During [Rachel's] seventh-grade year she was always talking about Devonte," Ramon said. "They took on a brother/sister relationship from there.

"I remember when East Middle played R-S Middle she went behind the back in the game. I said, 'That's something I didn't teach you. Where did you get that from?' She said, 'I saw Devonte do it.'"

"Every time we're in the gym we want to play one-on-one and check each other," Rachel said. "I like a challenge and I know he can push me. And sometimes we'll argue with each other and say we're better."

But let's not get ahead of ourselves, there is still plenty of basketball left for both sets of Cavaliers as they gear up for the conclusion of the regular season, conference tournaments and state playoff runs. Which means more time for Rutherford County to enjoy watching two of its best basketball players in recent memory, and more time for these fathers to enjoy coaching their child.

"I'm very proud as a coach and a father. That's my girl," Ramon said. "I love when people come up to me and ask who that girl is and I can say that's my daughter."