“This is a basketball! It is round and it bounces!” began the most basic of Ben Nelson’s basketball lessons. Coach Nelson seemed to never lack inspirational words on the hoops court, comes as no surprise as Ben was always reading, attending, or organizing basketball coaches to share their passion and words with others. Campers through several generations learned the basics, “head up, palms up, let’s play defense,” from Coach Nelson. Some of them took what they learned to play at higher levels, but all of them took away lessons on the hardcourt into their lives to become better citizens in their communities. All thanks to Coach Nelson’s thoughtful and patient coaching style (and, if he ever yelled, it was “to you, not at you!”)
That is why we are honoring Ben, by renovating and dedicating the Camp Dudley Basketball Courts, in his honor, as part of the Building for the Future Capital Campaign. The Coach Nelson Courts will be ready for Dudley campers at the start of the 2019 summer season. A new playing surface, lines, and backboards are all part of this major renovation that will honor the work Ben has done at Camp, and for the game of basketball, over countless years.
Ben has played some “help defense” in so many areas over the years at Dudley, besides being an inspirational coach and accomplished player. First arriving in 1950 as a Cub, Ben has been involved in more positions at Camp Dudley than just about anyone; Camper, JL, AL, Leader, Division Head, Director of Athletics, Plant and Property Manager, Board Member, and (most current) driving a bus for Hiking and Canoe Trips. Regardless of his position, Ben has always found ways to connect with campers and staff alike. He has made fundamental contributions to Dudley’s mission, insisting that sportsmanship through competition is incredibly important to the development of strong character. Through living the Dudley Motto, “The Other Fellow First,” Ben has been honored with many awards during his full and busy life, among the accolades is the Camp Dudley Man of the Year honor in 2002. But this one, dedicating the courts in his name, certainly has him taken aback with the special place basketball has had in his life.
Director Matt Storey surprised Ben by announcing the newly renovated courts would be named after him during the CDA Reunion Low Camp Number reception. Storey said, “We are honored to recognize one of Dudley’s most storied coaches and friends, and are pleased to share the news that the Coach Nelson Basketball Courts will be ready when Camp opens in 2019!”
Professionally Ben has been the Executive Director of Section IV of the New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA) for the past twenty years and has been a leader of exemplary programs in Sports Safety, Academics and Sportsmanship. In 2018 he was inducted into the NYSPHSAA Hall of Fame which includes Dudley’s own Ken “Dutch” Hafner, and Ernie Davis who Ben played against in High School and at Colgate (of course not in football, but in basketball). Ben has also served as the Assistant Director of the Basketball Coaches Association of New York (BCANY) since its inception and was inducted into their Hall of Fame in 2014. The BCANY has also named a yearly state award as the “The BCANY Ben Nelson Service Award”. He has also been recognized by the New York Athletic Administrators Association with the Distinguished Service Award and the Otis Sennett Award of Excellence. He was honored with the Binghamton Basketball Official Dedication in 2013 and the Oxford Clyde Cole Wrestling Tournament Dedication in 2014.
“To further honor Ben, an anonymous donor has agreed to match gifts made in honor of Ben to bring this project to a successful conclusion,” continued Storey. Capital pledges can be made to honor Ben over the next 4 years. Please contact Dave Langston or Dawn Gay for more information about making your pledge. Friends wishing to honor Ben with a gift to the Building for the Future Capital Campaign should earmark their checks for the Coach Nelson Courts. Gifts also may be made online by clicking here and selecting Coach Nelson Courts from the drop-down menu. Thank you in advance!