Top Performer Profile: Vince Camper

By: Lauren Jones

Although born in Long Beach, California, Vince Camper’s family moved around a lot because his stepfather was an active member of the military. Just as Vince would become acclimated to one environment, it was time to move to a new community and enroll in a new school and make new friends.

“Right when I felt like I had something going on in one spot, it was snatched away from me,” said Camper.

For Vince, those feelings of displacement translated into a need to compete. He played football, boxed and ran track. He was rough, tough and competitive though early on he was diagnosed with Osgood-Schlatter disease, which most frequently occurs in children who participate in sports that involve running, jumping and swift changes of direction according to the Mayo Clinic and often creates a painful lump below the kneecap.

Vince’s condition forced him to slow down a bit. At 6’3” and 220 pounds, his stature suggested that he would have a natural knack for football. However, basketball was in his genes. Camper’s father, Vince Camper Sr., played at Lamar University and went on to play professionally in Europe.

Ironically, “he pushed me towards football and boxing more than basketball,” Camper reflected.

It was Camper’s mom who pushed him into playing basketball. “My mom said you aren’t just going to be sitting around the house.”

Camper reluctantly agreed and tried his hand at basketball in San Diego where his family was residing at the time.

“For me playing basketball in San Diego was everything,” said Camper. “It’s where I got my start and I was sorry.”

Camper’s family was next uprooted to Mississippi where he attended Oxford High School. A California boy moving to rural, southern Mississippi was not exactly ideal for Camper. He was the new kid on the block once again and suffered a little culture shock.

“It was different because I didn’t relate to them,” Camper said. “You don’t have the same slang. It was so much slower and so much smaller.”

Initially, Camper remembers he was not so popular, but he soon became the best athlete at his school in both football and basketball.

In that locale, there was not a lot to do and Camper stayed in gym and played basketball – a lot. Throughout his high school tenure, Tulane University in New Orleans consistently recruited him.

“They started sending me handwritten letters during my freshman year.”

Camper’s well-decorated junior and senior high school seasons on the basketball court resulted in multiple college recruiters expressing interest in him. He chose to “stick with the school that saw the diamond in the rough early.”

When basketball took him to his next journey to Tulane University, things went smoothly for the first two years, until his head coach was fired. He then had a tough decision to make, whether to stay or to move on. He chose to transfer to Cal State LA the next season playing under head coach Stephen Thompson.

The move “helped shape me a lot and I got my swagger back there.”

While at Cal State LA, Camper stumbled upon a summer basketball league that kept being mentioned by his fellow teammates, The Drew League. Being away from LA for so long, Camper had only heard that a lot of college players played in the Drew and that occasionally professional players participated.

“The first taste I ever got of the Drew was when it was in its last year at Drew Middle School. I saw Stovall in the midst of his MVP campaign, not having a good game vs. little Casper Ware, who must’ve still been in high school at the time with 40 something points.”

The following summer, in Camper’s first game at the Drew he scored 43 points for a team called LA Push. Soon after this breakout performance, Commissioner Dino Smiley kicked the team out of the League because only a few players showed up to the games on time. As a result of his impressive performance, Camper was picked up by Coach Rock’s team now known as I Can All Stars.

Between Drew League seasons, Camper found success playing overseas. His pro career began in Colombia, South America.

“It was my introduction to living in another country, getting used to other cultures. It’s a lot of black people. The only difference is that they speak Spanish, but that season let me know, you can do this at a high level.”

In his first professional season overseas, Camper led the league in scoring and was second in assists.

The Drew has become somewhat of a home to Camper. After he played with four Drew League teams including New Image, he landed with NWA. His nickname earning season came when he joined LA Loop and the team had a 9-2 season. His nickname, Body Snatcher was given to him by Drew League announcer George Preciado. Vince “Body Snatcher” Camper started to resound in the speakers.

Body Snatcher references Vince’s style of play, which as he describes is with a controlled rage. Coming down the court, he is not afraid of contact and will snatch a body on his way to the basket because he is often double and triple teamed.

“I thought all I was aiming for in the Drew was to earn a nickname,” Camper said. “I thought once I earn a nickname then I’ll get the respect I deserve. I got the nickname and it wasn’t enough.”

In what Camper thought should have been his MVP season, he returned after not having touched a basketball in 4 months, and scored 33 points. He was disappointed that his team did not make it to the playoffs.

“I took it as a sign, a message from God,” Camper said. Starting the last season weighing in at 275 pounds, “going through stuff in [his] personal life,” and only playing once a week due to a minor foot injury. He ended that season with MVP honors leading the entire league in scoring going up against some of the best players in the world, including DeMar DeRozan.

Coming off of an undisputed MVP season, for the 2016 season Camper now known as the “Sole Assassin” feels he has a lot to prove. If his first game was any indication, it is clear that this traveler is on his way to another brilliant season.

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Lauren A. Jones (@LoJoMedia) is a Production Coordinator at Fox Sports in Century City. Jones has spent the last five summers covering the Drew League specializing in player features, league history and team spotlights. Prior to her role at Fox, Jones earned her B.A. from the University of Southern California in Broadcast Journalism and Sports Media Studies. Her journalistic work has been featured in the LA Sentinel, LA Watts Times and Yahoo Sports. Catch me on my blog, launching this June 6.24.16. Peace!