The journey ends at home for former Gannon and Central Catholic star Kyle Goldcamp.
By Everett Cook Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The biggest man in the Greentree SportsPlex just retired from a career he never thought was possible, wrapping up a journey that took him from Division II Gannon University to the cusp of the NBA. He shook hands with Shaquille O'Neal and LeBron James and was coached by Byron Scott and Mike Woodson.
On Monday, playing in the Pittsburgh Basketball Club Pro-Am, a summer league at Greentree, the 6-foot-10 Kyle Goldcamp was just another big man in a big man's game. He's playing for the South Hills Audi team next to 19-year-olds, one summer removed from playing in the NBA summer league. He could still be playing, still be chasing the dream, but after getting married last summer and doing a lot of reflecting and praying, Goldcamp, 27, is hanging up his size-16 sneakers.
"There's still that part of me where I feel like I'm capable," Goldcamp said. "I'm watching guys that I played against in the NBA summer leagues right now. I'm a little torn still, but I'm at peace with it. I'm not physically hurt, I was able to retire on my own terms, and I'm very happy about it."
When Goldcamp started high school at Central Catholic he was a 5-11 beanpole who was a cross-country runner. By the time he graduated in 2004, he had shot up to 6-7 and was one of the best basketball players in Central Catholic history.
Goldcamp first went to Pitt-Johnstown and after two years transferred to Gannon. In his senior season the Golden Knights reached the NCAA Division II Elite 8, led by Goldcamp's 19 points and nine rebounds a game.
He caught on with the Erie Bayhawks in the NBA Development League and was lost on the court. The speed of the game was insane compared to Division II basketball, and Goldcamp was still trying to add weight. His first year in Erie, he averaged just three points and thee rebounds a game. But those numbers continued to improve every year to the point where Goldcamp averaged 14 points and eight rebounds a game in 2011-12. The NBA noticed.
Goldcamp was invited to training camp with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2011 and the New York Knicks in 2012. He held his own, getting to the last round of cuts with the Cavaliers. That's as close as he would get; the big break never came.
"He got better and better as time went on, and who knows what could have happened if he got called up or if somebody would have given him an opportunity somewhere," said Gene Cross, Goldcamp's coach with the Bayhawks. "The stars didn't line up perfectly for him in that sense. Anybody in the D-League in their moment is right around the corner. It just so happened that Kyle's moment never came."
Cross estimates that the last three guys on every NBA roster are interchangeable with the best players in the D-League -- it's just a matter of impressing the right people at the right time.
"It was a little frustrating sometimes because it's a very competitive situation in the D-League," Goldcamp said. "You're trying to win as a team, but you're also trying to further your own career. It's that constant struggle, and it does get frustrating when you see other guys get called up, but you're happy for them too because that means the system is working."
After his wife was accepted at Chatham University where she will study occupational therapy, Goldcamp started to think about ending his playing career. He's young but didn't want injuries to affect him forever. Jobs began opening up, and Goldcamp took that as a sign, becoming the youth minister at his local church. Goldcamp has a master's degree in education, and wants to be a head coach somewhere down the line.
He's not playing anymore but doesn't envision ever truly being out of basketball.
His agent was surprised when Goldcamp told him about retiring, believing that there were still opportunities to play somewhere. He would have been welcomed back to the D-League and had a few opportunities overseas. Maybe that break was just around the corner.
For now, Goldcamp is just thankful he got close at all.
"I always tell all the kids in my youth ministry that with any goal, you want to set that goal high," Goldcamp said. "Even if you fall a little bit short ... I still made a professional career out of playing basketball, and I truthfully never thought that would be possible coming out of high school."