H-SPORTS

Jul 11, 2013 1:17 AM by Andrew Masuda

Ahead of schedule on rehab, Kobe Bryant opens camp at UCSB

Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant is taking a break this week from rehab to pass on life lessons to hundreds of kids at UC Santa Barbara. For the fourth year in a row, UCSB is hosting Bryant and his annual Kobe Basketball Academy.

Five hundred kids, ages 8 to 18 years old, are improving or learning new skills of the game under the guidance of the five-time NBA champion and his coaching staff.

"I just woke up early. I was already to go and I was bugging my mom. Let's go," said 13 year old Austin Donovan. The Paso Robles eighth grader couldn't wait for the opportunity to meet his idol Kobe Bryant. "I'm really excited to get the opportunity to meet Kobe and talk to him and just meet him," said Donovan, who plays small forward for his basketball team.

Bryant, who is in the middle of rehabbing his surgically repaired Achilles' tendon, said he refused to use his injury as an excuse for missing his camp. "It was very important to me. I think growing up as a kid I used to go to camps that were sponsored by some top athletes or whatever and they never ever showed up. So I told myself then if I ever had a camp I would be there no matter what," said Bryant.

Kobe says his rehab is progressing faster than expected, though he won't start shooting again until next month. He'll still make his presence felt this week. " I'm limited. I'm not going to be able to do too much without the Lakers having a heart attack so I'll just kind of be around walking through showing them various things," said Bryant.

Reporters hounded Kobe about Dwight Howard's decision to sign with Houston. Kobe wished Dwight well, but didn't want to speculate why Howard left Los Angeles. "I don't. Like you look at me and really think once a guy decides to go some place else I'm going to try to decide why that happened?" quipped Bryant.

Kobe wants kids to have fun and learn to compete this week. He hopes his injury further inspires this group to always overcome obstacles. " I think it's the challenge of being down and now having to bounce back," said Bryant.

As for Austin, he hopes to learn another lesson from the Black Mamba himself. "I want him to teach me some moves," said Donovan.

The camp runs through Sunday. Bryant said the access to the campus' facilities and nearby accommodations for kids and their families made UC Santa Barbara the ideal spot for his camp.

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