As a junior, Cam Haslam was an alpha dog on the court for the men’s basketball team. The team’s leading scorer last season, Haslam poured in a variety of shots on his way to averaging 20.2 points per game. Yet a quick glance at the Panthers’ current roster will reveal no sign of any “Haslam.” He still has a year of college eligibility – but he’s vanished. Why? Ultimately, he’s decided to cut his college basketball career short. Not because of turmoil with coaches and players or off-the-court issues, but to enter the workforce.
Haslam could’ve returned for one final senior hurrah in pursuit of a Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) title. Instead, in the midst of completing his Master’s degree in Leadership Development at Chapman, he took on a full time-job with the Los Angeles Clippers organization of the National Basketball Association (NBA), after connecting with one of their current employees while at Chapman.
“This job keeps me involved in basketball,” Haslam said. “I can take a lot of the things I enjoyed about playing basketball and use them.”
Haslam deals with community relations in the youth basketball department of the Clippers. He reaches out to local youth centers, school districts and gyms in Southern California to help improve basketball programs and familiarize children with the game he fell in love with.
“When I was a kid, I was a gym rat – sometimes I enjoyed the offseason more than the regular season because I could spend hours in the gym improving my craft,” Haslam said. “Now being able to give this same experience to the kids is awesome.”
As that gym rat, he grew up bouncing around from recreational centers in Seattle, Washington, in search of a pick-up game, or a court where he could improve his skills. There, he engaged with current Chapman sophomore Anthony Giomi in heated high school basketball battles. The two played together on the Panthers last season during Giomi’s freshman year, continuing the relationship they’d developed. Now that Haslam has departed the team early, Giomi is sad to see him go, but respects Haslam for his decision.
“I grew up playing against Cam. He’s one of my biggest role models in basketball,” Giomi said. “The fact that he’s able to step from one realm of basketball into another is really impressive. I’m very proud of him and his success.”
Haslam still picks up a basketball frequently. While it’s not drilling threes or dropping in floaters against Claremont Mudd-Scripps or California Lutheran University, he still participates in different recreational leagues around Southern California and plays against some of his own coworkers off the clock. He hasn’t yet been able to grace the hardwood of the Staples Center with a dribble, but he has been able to work with some of its frequent visitors.
“In one of our clinics that we’ve put on, we were able to get Landry Shamet (shooting guard for the Clippers) and Fox News out to the facility to cover the clinic,” Haslam said. “This was definitely one of the coolest moments I’ve experienced so far.”
Yet ultimately, the fulfillment Haslam gets from this job goes deeper than simply being able to stay in the game of basketball. It’s a fulfillment that motivated the admittedly difficult decision to step away from Chapman basketball: a desire to help others.
“One day, I was going home from work on the train and this woman came up to me and asked if I worked for the Clippers,” Haslam said. “She told me how she used to put her kids in Clippers camps and how much they loved them. It was so cool that this job helped me connect with someone I wouldn’t normally talk to.”
Ultimately, it is Haslam’s background, growing up in the gyms of Seattle, that helps him feel a connection with the children he’s instructing – a passion that’s helped ease his transition from his playing to working career.
“With this job, I can see how much the kids love the game,” Haslam said. “It reminds me of myself in a way and keeps my love for basketball the same.”