Giving back brings Jerian Grant back to South Bend

Tom Noie
South Bend Tribune

Living out one dream as an NBA guard with the New York Knicks, former Notre Dame All-American Jerian Grant is already working toward the next one.

That’s what brings him back to South Bend the first weekend in June for the first annual Jerian Grant Basketball Camp at the South Bend Salvation Army Kroc Center (see box). Not long after deciding that he wanted to follow in the family footsteps and play in the NBA — his father, Harvey, and uncle, Horace, each had long and successful professional careers — Grant started thinking about what life would be like when his playing days ended.

Grant’s only one year into an NBA career he hopes lasts at least a decade, but he already knows where to turn when it’s time to retire.

“I want to coach when I’m done,” he said. “It’s probably been since high school that I thought, yeah, I want to get into coaching when this is all over.

“This camp can help me learn how to teach kids and reach kids and help them get better.”

Teach kids the way Grant was taught at a young age.

Working as a team ball boy when his father played for the then-Washington Bullets, Grant spent countless of hours in the gym watching and waiting on the likes of Juwan Howard, Rod Strickland and Chris Webber. He still remembers the lessons they taught him, even if they didn’t always talk to him.

“I got to see how much work they put in,” Grant said. “That really helped, to see how hard those guys were working and how hard I’d have to work to get to where they are.”

Grant already has taken small steps in the coaching direction. Anytime he was home on break from Notre Dame, Grant would get back to his alma mater, DeMatha Catholic High School, in Hyattsville, Md. There, he would meet up with a core of former teammates who also had gone off to play collegiately. If there was a DeMatha camp to run, odds were a handful of former Stags (Grant, his younger brother, Jerami, former Indiana standout and best friend Victor Oladipo, former Pittsburgh guard James Robinson), were going to be there to help run them. Didn’t matter how early in the morning or how late at night a session went, Grant always seemed to be there helping. Coaching. Teaching. Learning.

“It helped us being able to teach kids, then get together and work out,” Grant said. “We’d see those younger kids grow up and get a lot better and know that we were able to be a part of that. That meant a lot to us.”

It also means a lot to Grant to hold his first camp in South Bend. Ads for the camp include a quote from Grant saying that he was “coming home.” At one point in his basketball life, the only way Grant thought he’d ever see South Bend was in his rearview mirror as he steered his SUV toward the Indiana Toll Road.

Young, shy, uncertain of his place in the program and painfully homesick when he arrived at Notre Dame as a freshman, Grant didn’t think he could stick it out to see his sophomore season. Sitting out that first season in 2010-11 (there simply was not enough minutes for him behind eventual Big East player of the year Ben Hansbrough), Grant thought long and hard about getting out and getting into a school closer to home. Maryland sounded good. Georgetown might have been an option.

But ultimately, he decided to stick it out. He stuck it out again three-plus years later when he was separated from the university for the 2014 spring semester following an “academic misstep.” Many wondered then if Grant would ever return.

But he did, and became the only player in school history with at least 1,700 points (1,739), 600 assists (690), 150 steals (175) and 30 blocks (37). He ranks 11th all-time in scoring and was the school’s first first team All-American in 14 years. That perseverance helped make him the player that would go on to be a first-round pick in last summer’s NBA draft.

He now embraces the place that embraced him during that magical 2014-15 season that saw Notre Dame go 32-6, win its first-ever Atlantic Coast Conference tournament championship and nearly beat Kentucky in an NCAA tournament Elite Eight game for the ages.

“When I first got there, I didn’t want to be there,” Grant said of South Bend. “As I got older, I kind of figured out my place in the program and the town got behind me. Now it’s like a second home.

“I wanted to do my camp in South Bend for everything the city has done for me.”

Grant makes regular trips back to town when his schedule allows. He was back for a few days earlier this spring. He returned earlier this week for the graduation of close friend and former Notre Dame teammate Zach Auguste. And he’ll continue to come through even after the camp’s conclusion. Grant’s girlfriend, Emily Phillips, is from the city’s west side. The two have a son, Hunter Jrue, born in January.

“He was always very comfortable here,” Brey said. “I kind of like it because it gives him another reason to be back around here. He’s really, really proud of our program.

“He has great memories.”

Grant will be assisted with the camp by his younger brother, Jerami, a member of the Philadelphia 76ers, Oladipo, with the Orlando Magic, and close friend and former Irish teammate Pat Connaughton, who finished his rookie season last week with the Portland Trail Blazers. Grant hopes to get at least 100 kids out for the first camp, and then build those numbers in future camps. Whatever the final tally is for the first one, Grant’s goal is simple.

“Be ready to work,” he said. “At the end of the weekend, I want these kids to say they learned something. That’s the main goal – help these kids become better.”

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Former Notre Dame guard Jerian Grant is eyeing life after basketball in his return to South Bend next month for his first-ever kids camp.AP File Photo/LM OTERO

What: First annual Jerian Grant Basketball Camp.

Where: Salvation Army Kroc Center, 900 W. Western Avenue, South Bend.

When: Friday, June 3 to Sunday June 5.

Who: Open to boys and girls ages 7 through 14.

Cost: $200 per camper.

Breakdown: Sessions for 7-10-year-old run 4 to 6 p.m. Friday, 9 to noon Saturday and Sunday. Sessions for campers ages 11-14 run 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Friday, 1-4 Saturday and Sunday.

Registration deadline: Friday, May 20.

Note: To register, go to For additional information, write or call 301-538-9732.