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Back home, Siena basketball's Camper helping community

Back home, Siena basketball's Camper helping community

Basketball star declared last week for NBA draft
Back home, Siena basketball's Camper helping community
Manny Camper, left, and Paul Tue are shown in this recent photo.
Photographer: Photo provided

Manny Camper has been doing whatever he can during these uncertain times to stay ready. If opportunities present themselves for the Siena men’s basketball junior to work out for NBA teams after he declared for the league’s draft last week, the 6-foot-7 Camper wants to make sure he’s prepared to take advantage of them.

But he’s home, too, in Chestertown, Maryland. That — home — is a rare place for a Division I basketball player to be at any point in the year, as college basketball players usually are on campus, even during their offseason.

And knowing that Camper was home meant that Paul Tue — a close family friend of the Campers that Manny refers to as his “Uncle Paul” — knew Camper could be counted on to come help out. Tue is a co-chair for the Social Action Committee for Racial Justice, a group that has spearheaded a program along with Kent County Schools and various other groups that delivers food to kids and senior-citizens during the COVID-19 pandemic that has shut down schools. Tue has enlisted Camper multiple times since Camper made it home last month to help unpack, distribute and deliver food as part of the program, and Tue said he plans to continue to make use of Camper’s help based off the All-MAAC first-team selection’s response when first contacted about volunteering

“He told me, ‘Unc, whatever you need, I’m there,’” Tue said in a recent phone interview.

So while Camper was getting set to declare last week for the NBA draft, he spent a portion of his week helping to unload a 15-ton Sysco truck of food. Wearing protective gloves and a mask, Camper worked alongside a host of other volunteers to make that happen. Additionally, Camper has also helped get food to distribution sites and helped bring food to people who couldn’t make it to the pick-up sites throughout Kent County. With leftover food after deliveries were made, Camper was part of a crew that knocked on doors to see if anyone else needed anything as part of a 10-hour volunteering stint.

“We’re just trying to get out there and help anyone that’s struggling,” Camper, a Siena co-captain last season, said.

On its own, that’s important work. Tue said it’s extra meaningful, though, for the area to see Camper helping in the community. While he’s often away from home, his hometown follows his career closely and takes pride in the way he’s blossomed from benchwarmer as a freshman to star as a junior. When Siena played last season at Rider — the closest Siena came to Chestertown — approximately five dozen people from Camper’s hometown showed up to watch him play and stuck around after the game to take pictures with him.

“It’s a blessing to have the support that I do,” Camper said at the time.

Camper scored nearly 2,000 points during his career at Kent County High School. He is listed on Siena’s athletics website as the “first male student-athlete from Kent County High to receive a Division I scholarship.”

“Manny,” Tue said, “is a real, live role model for all these kids.”

Tue’s 9-year-old son is an example of that. Tue said his son burst into tears, out of happiness, when he heard last week that Camper had declared for the NBA draft.

“But that’s not just my son,” Tue said. “That kid [Camper] has a lot on his shoulders right now because he’s carrying all of Kent County right now.”

Chestertown has approximately 5,250 people in it, while Kent County — with nearly 20,200 residents according to the 2010 census — is the least populous county in Maryland. As a kid, the 20-year-old Camper said that “growing up in a small town, you hear things are impossible” to do, and he takes pride in any way he can show that isn’t true.

“Everything I do,” Camper said, “I try to give back and try to give kids hope.”

Reach Michael Kelly at [email protected] or @ByMichaelKelly on Twitter. 

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