BOZICH | Camping Trip: Peyton Siva, Russ Smith still getting big - WDRB 41 Louisville News

BOZICH | Camping Trip: Peyton Siva, Russ Smith still getting big assists from Dads

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Russ Smith and his father, Russ Sr., and Peyton Siva Sr. and his son, Peyton (from run) turn their yearly basketball camp into a family affair. Russ Smith and his father, Russ Sr., and Peyton Siva Sr. and his son, Peyton (from run) turn their yearly basketball camp into a family affair.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The best basketball camps feature exposure to college coaches, the fastest track to scholarships. Other camps focus on the serious fundamentals of the game: dribbling, passing and shooting.

Russ Smith and Peyton Siva believe that there is one touch that matters more than shooting touch at camp time. That is a father’s touch.

Smith and Siva credit their dads for assistance during careers that stirred them to become the starting backcourt on the University of Louisville’s 2013 NCAA championship team.

They’re so convinced of the importance of their fathers that Siva and Smith have included their dads – Russ Sr. (also known as Big Russ) and Peyton Sr. (Papa Siva) – during a three-day basketball camp for about 180 children that concluded Thursday at Louisville Collegiate School.

“We’re showing the kids that our dads are a part of our lives,” Peyton Siva said.

For Big Russ and Papa Siva, Father’s Day stretched into Father’s Week. It’s been this way for three years.

“Peyton and Russ have both had struggles,” said Tim Barnett, a local coach who helped the players direct the camp. “But they’ve both had dads who have helped them get through it.

“It kind of gives a validity to the kids and the parents, so you can see the guys who raised these guys before they became Peyton Siva and Russ Smith, the guys that we know. It just kind of helps bring it full circle.

“In today’s world, that’s the problem. There’s not a lot of strong father figures and men in a lot of kid’s lives. I think that’s why a lot of nonsense is going on.”

Big Russ said that he began working with his son as a toddler. There was little time time for nonsense. Little Russ learned how to dribble at 2. Dad put son in a corner. He passed him the basketball. He helped him figure it out.

He still does. The Smiths played spirited games of one-on-one at U of L’s basketball practice facility this week. Big Russ said he won half the competition. Little Russ laughed and said he didn’t want to discuss the results.  

A former professional player overseas, Big Russ included Little Russ in basketball clinics that he started directing in New York City about 15 years ago, clinics that typically conclude with a neighborhood cookout and festival near his hair salon in Harlem every August. They’ll do that again this year, too.

His purpose?

“To encourage kids, to teach them, to help out with counselors, just to be a supporter (is his role),” Big Russ said. “That’s what it’s all about. Always support your son. Support your kids in everything they do.”

Instead of fist-bumping about the 1,908 points this his son scored at U of L, Big Russ will tell you Little Russ was a kid who usually tried to do the right thing and only crossed his father one time.

Little Russ laughed at that one. “I was also really smart,” he said. “A lot of times when I did get in trouble, I was able to hide the bone.”

Papa Siva was more involved with football and boxing than basketball during Peyton’s childhood in Seattle. But when his son and Smith started organizing their first camp three years ago, Dad volunteered his time.

Papa Siva overcame personal issues in Washington before moving to Louisville during Siva’s college career. He does not run from that. He shared a brief motivational message with the morning and afternoon campers.

“I’ve been through a lot of adversity,” he said. “But you know what? I overcame it. Just being around my son, focusing on life and kids and a whole new meaning to life …

“I encourage all other fathers. If you see a kid or stray kid that’s out there, help them. It don’t take much. It’s that love and that care that makes a world of difference to them babies.”

After playing in Italy last season, Peyton Siva will move to Germany this fall. Is he still interested in playing in the NBA? Every player wants that.

Three years after his college career ended, Peyton Siva is a sensible guy who makes sensible decisions. Until a solid NBA opportunity is offered, Siva will build his career and bank account in Europe.

Smith said that he will play for the Trailblazers in the NBA Summer League, but he has also earned the attention of the Denver Nuggets. As strongly as Little Russ believes he will force his way into the NBA next season, Big Russ believes it even more.

“He’s tough,” Big Russ said. “He’s not a quitter. He has all the tools. He just has to be in the right situation.”

There was a time, however, when Little Russ did want to quit. Several of them. They came during his first and second seasons at U of L. He was prepared to return home and play at Manhattan College.

“A lot of times certain parents are afraid to put their foot down,” Little Russ said. “My Dad was always the type of parent to put his foot down, and Peyton’s dad was always the type of parent to put his foot down and be real with us.

“A lot of times, that’s what kids are missing now, parents to be real with their kids. We definitely don’t lack in that department.”

Siva nodded.

“We always tell (kids) to thank their parents and tell them, ‘I love you,’ because a lot of kids aren’t fortunate to have their parents involved in their lives,” Peyton Siva said.

“If you do, be respectful and be appreciative when your parents are here.”

Russ Smith and Peyton Siva show that respect and appreciation to their fathers every June.

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