AUBURN — Twelve-year-old Davin Cloutier is one of the old pros at the Maine Red Claws’ annual Summer Clinic Series.

Cloutier, from Poland, knows the drills by heart now. Wednesday’s session at Central Maine Community College with former Red Claws players Frank Gaines and Eugene Spates was his third in as many years.

He knows how to hustle his way through the conditioning drills. He knows how to set up his teammates in the 3-on-3 games. And the ease with which he weaves his way through a line of cones while keeping his dribble would make Rajon Rondo smile.

“I watch the Celtics and I know (the Red Claws) are affiliated with them” said Cloutier, whose favorite player is Ray Allen. “It’s just fun to play with actual professional basketball players and learn stuff from them.”

Cloutier was among 55 local children ages 7-14 who participated in the four-hour clinic. CMCC’s Kirk Hall was the third of four stops the former Red Claws are making this week on a state-wide tour.

The clinic, organized by NBA Cares, combines teaching kids basketball fundamentals with skills they can use beyond the court, like teamwork and perseverance.

“We get all different skill levels, so the main thing we want to teach them is the basics of basketball, the ball-handling, the passing,” said Spates, a 6-foot-8 forward who played 27 games with the Red Claws in 2010-11 and spent last season playing in a professional league in Qatar. “Some of these kids, we’re introducing basketball to them. Hopefully, they take something from here, whether it’s just working hard, being a good teammate or cheering somebody on.”

Frank Lopez, who runs the clinics for the NBA, said Spates and Gaines weren’t just there to sign autographs. They were in-the-flesh examples of what it takes to pursue a dream, whether it involved basketball or something else.

“I always tell kids that they want to ask the questions of the people who’ve reached the pinnacle of their profession,” Lopez said. “It’s taken them some time to get there. It’s taken them hard work. Find out from them what I need to do to get there. There are no shortcuts in life.”

Few athletes are better equipped to offer that kind of advice than Gaines. Ignored by the NBA last year, the Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne star went to the Red Claws with the first pick of the second round of the NBA Development League draft.

The Red Claws projected Gaines, a 6-foot-3 guard, as a role player. But he made an immediate impact as an explosive scorer off the bench and eventually forced his way into the starting lineup by averaging a team-leading 22.4 points per game, fourth overall in the D-League. He was named the D-League’s Most Improved Player.

“I listened to my coaches and I had a great team around me that gave me the ball and gave me the confidence to knock down shots and make plays,” he said.

NBA teams noticed Gaines, inviting him to mini-camps and summer leagues during the off-season. They haven’t signed him, but he did accept a lucrative offer to play in Italy, one he said he won’t back out of without a guaranteed offer from an NBA franchise.

“I’m looking forward to it. I’ve heard a lot of good things,” said Gaines, who heads for Italy at the end of the month. “I had dinner with the coaching staff and front office for that team in Vegas. They told me they’re going to put me in the right situation to succeed and hopefully get an Italian league championship.”

Gaines continues to chase his basketball dream. As Cloutier left Kirk Hall Wednesday afternoon with his mother, Kellie, he was mapping out his own.

“If I can move up and train hard like them,” he said, “I can maybe become a Red Claw.”


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