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Former NBA player hosts Christian basketball camp
spt kp Called to Greatness scrimmage
Korbin Widiger dribbles past Trevor Kaiser during the afternoon session of the Called to Greatness basketball camp on Monday at the Panther Athletic Center. - photo by Kevin Price Great Bend Tribune

Called to Greatness, a basketball camp that focuses on fundamentals of the game and Christian fundamentals run by former University of Kansas and Miami Heat player Wayne Simien, kicked off its two-day stay in Great Bend on Monday.
The camp ends today at the Panther Athletic Center before heading to Bennington.
“This is my seventh year (overall),” Simien said. “It kind of goes back to when I was still playing and I would come back here in the summer time and host some camps in Lawrence and Leavenworth.
“Then, when I went into the full-time ministry, it was good to grow it out to some other communities throughout Central Kansas. This has been a mainstay for us.”
Simien, who is hosting his fifth of seven camps this summer, played for the Jayhawks until his senior season in 2005, when he was awarded the Big 12 Conference Player of the Year award.
He was drafted by the Miami Heat in the first round, and was part of the 2005-06 team that won an NBA title.
In 2008, Simien played a year in Spain before retiring to focus on his ministry.
It is the fourth year for Called to Greatness to host a camp in Great Bend.
“It’s been great,” Simien said. “It’s been cool, not only to see that we get kids from Great Bend this year, but from all of the surrounding communities, Hoisington, Claflin, Dighton, several others. It is nice to see it serve not just this community, but surrounding communities as well.”
Simien said he is starting to recognized kids who have been at the camp since the beginning.
“We’ve got a good mixture,” Simien said. “We’ve got kids who have been here for all four years. We’ve got kids that this is their first year and maybe their friend or family member came last year and they wanted to come check it out.
“It’s been a good mixture of old faces and some new ones. Either way, it’s great to come and work with these kids.”
Simien said that energy is the key to keeping the camps fresh year after year.
“It’s about having lots of energy and excitement when you’re here,” Simien said. “When the coaches are excited and energetic, it really is infectious with the kids and they get excited and energetic as well.
“As long as we keep staff and volunteers that are excited about being here and embrace not only the basketball but the message, then it’s going to be a good time for the kids.”
Simien, who was inducted into the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame in 2012, said that he has seen the difference that the camp makes.
“It’s been great, the feedback that we have from the parents,” Simien said, “whether it’s a conversation that they had with a son or daughter on the way home from camp about what they learned about living a life of greatness in God, or maybe it’s even students that we’ve reached here in camp and they end up coming to one of the colleges where we have this ministry.
“Whether it’s K-State, KU or Baker University, they already have a familiarity with our ministry and with our staff. I think those have been the most rewarding.”
Called to Greatness has ministries set up on the campuses of Kansas State, Kansas, Baker and University of Missouri-Kansas City. Simien said he hopes that it will expand in the near future.
“We’re hoping to launch on two new campuses in the next two years,” Simien said. “We’re still kind of feeling it out on which campuses will be best, either here in Kansas or maybe we’ll head north to Nebraska or more in Missouri. We’re figuring it out.”
Simien said that he never expected the ministry to grow this big.
“Not quite,” Simien said. “I thought it would be a basketball camp or two that I would put on in the offseason, but it became something that I was excited to do full-time.
“Then, as we were able to connect to other ministries and other resources and grow our staff to over close to 30 people now. It’s been great to be able to grow out influence, as well as our reach into different college campuses and even other sports.”
Called to Greatness hosts camps for several different sports.
“We do football, baseball, soccer, we do dance,” Simien said. “Obviously, those aren’t my forte, I stick mostly to the basketball side, but different staff members that we’ve had come on have different gifts, so we allow them the freedom to utilize those gifts and be able to serve kids in communities.”