“Simon says defense”
“Simon says shot”
Kevin Spann directs kids in a game of “Simon Says” at the Team Green Basketball Camp at Robert Moses Middle School in North Babylon. He’s the head coach of the basketball program at the Long Island Campus of St. Joseph’s College. As elementary school-aged boys and girls shuffle and hop in colorful high-tops around the gym floor, Spann also drills some of the older kids on crossovers. It’s a lot of work, but he likes volunteering for the community . . . and helping out his good friend, Danny Green.
It’s that Danny Green. The one who is a shooting guard for the San Antonio Spurs. The one who set a then-NBA record with 27 three-pointers in the 2013 Finals. The one whose hometown of North Babylon threw him a parade when he helped bring home the championship the next year.
Spann moved to North Babylon in 2000 just around the block from Green and the two became fast friends. They played basketball together for the Long Island Panthers in the AAU.
In Spann’s sophomore year of high school, he transferred from North Babylon High School to St. John the Baptist High School in West Islip. He tried to convince Green, who was a year younger, to also make the switch, but Green instead chose St. Mary’s in Manhasset. Since both schools belonged to the CHSAA, the two built a healthy rivalry; granted, St. Mary’s dominated the St. John program.
“[Spann] scored a lot, but every time we played them, we beat up on them quite a bit,” Green said.
Even as the two parted ways in college, Green to North Carolina and Spann to St. Peter’s and then LIU Post, the two remained close friends.
As they’ve grown older, their conversations have shifted from the regular kid stuff to talk of starting families and wanting to travel the world. Green, in particular, is an avid globetrotter. In addition to traversing the country for basketball, Green has already visited Spain twice this summer and plans to take a trip to Fiji soon. Spann traveled with Green to Ibiza this year for their annual trip with the “boys.”
Despite their hectic lives and different career paths, they both still make their way back to North Babylon for their annual camp at Green’s old middle school. The camp started back in 2010, a year after the Cavaliers drafted Green 46th overall, and now serves over 100 boys and girls from the area.
“We were blessed to work camps as kids, we worked camps in college and once Danny made it to the NBA level he wanted to give back — and I was on board to volunteer every year,” Spann said.
Since Green is often busy with offseason workouts, another Green helps Spann run the day-to-day operations of the camp. Danny Green Sr.. has worked in youth basketball for nearly 30 years and is the organizational mind behind the camp.
“He gets everything together administratively and we take care of the basketball part,” Spann said.
It’s a full community production. Other members of the Green family help out while older players act as coaches and pass down knowledge to the next generation of athletes.
Green Jr. still appears at the camp, plus his face on the posters doesn’t hurt with advertising.
In just seven years the camp has already produced some notable basketball talent. Dan Brzozka and Isaiah Moore play for Spann at St. Joseph’s while others have even join Division I programs. Another veteran of the camp is Green’s brother Devonte, who has agreed to play for Indiana University.
In addition to teaching basketball skills, the camp also focuses on teaching the mentality that helped Green and Spann become examples of North Babylon success.
“More important than talent is character,” Spann said. “We always talk about not cheating the drills, being coachable, listening.”
Green is still getting used to being a role model.
“It’s humbling to see these kids look up to me and want to be like me,” Green said. “It’s just my job to inspire them and pretty much reiterate what their parents want them to do, because sometimes they don’t want to listen to their parents, but they’ll listen to me for some odd reason.”