Formula Zero camp born from life experiences of Damian Lillard
Weber State University director of basketball operations Phil Beckner is standing outside a class on campus waiting for his newest player.
The clock reads 7:55 a.m., class starts at 8 a.m. and Beckner is there to make sure his player is getting to class on time. Of course, this comes after checking in about this new player getting a good night's sleep, how many shots he got up in the gym and if he was taking care of his body.
Damian Lillard was one of the best recruits Weber State has ever been able to bring in, but Beckner was there to remind the future star that it doesn't come easy with consistent, tough love.
Some 14 years later, the two were in day two of their recently established Formula Zero camp in Beaverton on Friday, Lillard of course now an NBA superstar the icon of Portland and the rest of Oregon.
Lillard mentioned how those constant check-ins and reminders led to sometimes bumping heads with Beckner, but it was all from a place of love and the desire to make him the best person he could be, not just a great basketball player.
"(Beckner) was on my case about every little thing to the point where I was calling my dad and I was like, 'This dude is crazy,'" Lillard said. "That's the kind of relationship we've always had. It's always been a high level of accountability and a lot of challenges. But on the backside of that, it's always been a lot of love and support that backed it up, so I never looked at it like, 'Is this dude picking on me?'"
The proof was in the Sunday night dinners at Famous Dave's out in Utah where Lillard and Beckner went every week to sit down and just talk.
It didn't have to be about basketball. It could be about life, what's going on with each other's families or whatever else might come up.
"There's not too many people you find such a deep and true connection with," Beckner said. "(Lillard) was a big WWF fan; I was a big WWF fan. He was an ultra-competitive guy; I was an ultra-competitive guy. And I think what those dinners did connected us through all the ups and downs."
Beckner went on to say how the amount of work Lillard puts into his game is something that has brought the trainer to tears, simply because of the understanding of what it took to get to that moment.
And those moments of accountability and trust are what Lillard and Beckner are hoping to achieve this week with the Formula Zero camp that invited 20 college players out to Portland from around the country, as well as 20 high school players.
DAY ONE // CHARACTER— Formula Zero (@frmlazro) August 5, 2022
â€œWhen you stand on your business, on your principles, on your moralsâ€¦ the values you have in life will lead you to where you need to go.â€ @Dame_Lillard â€¢ @PhilBeckner pic.twitter.com/jc4mHb5QsA
The goal isn't to have another fancy camp added to the resume of each player, but rather a chance to learn about the game and learn what it takes to be a good person.
"We are a coaching staff and a group of leaders that wants nothing from the kids, and everything for the kids," Beckner said. "We've had phenomenal players here from the Division I level, from the high school levels, kids (Lillard) is going to be competing against in a couple years, and we want to give them the truth. The good, the bad, the ugly, whatever it may be because we know we live in this world, especially in basketball right now, where a lot of kids aren't getting the truth."
The goal is a part of the name in Formula Zero, which of course is a nod to Lillard wearing the number.
Lillard described how getting to where he's been is something of a formula with having the right people around him, telling him what he needs to hear rather than what he wants to hear, and getting the lessons in life off the court.
Lillard credits his time with Beckner in teaching him plenty of all those things, so much to the point where Beckner challenged Lillard to speak up more and step into the mentorship role himself.
"The more I sat with it, I was like, 'I should start to share more,' not from a position of, I know what I'm talking about, but from a position of, someone did this for me, I applied it, and it worked," Lillard said. "As I started to get older, I started to realize what makes me happy and what I get my most joy from is being able to help other people and do something I know had a positive impact on other people."
Now the plan is to continue to help spread that impact, and Lillard is seeing it locally too. The camp isn't about playing favorites or doing favors for coaches in what players they bring in, but rather rewarding the players out there.
Two of them happened to be West Linn's Jackson Shelstad, an Oregon commit, as well as Cleveland's Jackson Cooper.
Dondrale Campbell, the former coach at Cleveland and a close friend of Lillard, worked out with his crew in Tigard and that's where Lillard got his first look at Cooper and thought he deserved the camp invite.
"I go workout at six in the morning … and they would always be in there working out," Lillard said. "It's stuff like that. Me and him never said a word to each other, but I just noticed he's in there working, so it means something to him. To me, it's easy to reward him with this."
The two locals and 38 other players have one more day of action on Saturday before the inaugural Formula Zero wraps up.
If there's anything Lillard and Beckner want the players to take away, it's about learning what it takes to live a good life, whether that's through the game or off the court.
Getting to that point wasn't easy for Lillard or Beckner, the latter saying there's plenty that Lillard has taught him right back about being a coach.
With the camp established now and off the ground, the duo hopes to be a force in shaping the next generation of the game.
"Formula Zero isn't about how great I am," Lillard said. "Just sharing all these things with these kids, because I think it's missing in our game today. They need it more than ever right now so I felt like it was necessary to not just put on a camp and say look, 'This is what I can do for you,' but to actually have people present that did it for me."
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