Sam Gary doesn't hesitate when asked about his favorite birthday present.
The Rockwood Area School District senior spent June 23-27 at Duke University under the tutelage of those who run one of NCAA's most prolific basketball programs. Among the mentors: Mike Krzyzewski, the winningest coach in college basketball history and coach of the 2008 and 2012 U.S. Olympic teams.
For Gary, learning the game he loves from his boyhood idol was like five consecutive Christmas mornings.
"That was the best present," he said, smiling wide.
This gift came courtesy of his mother, Patricia Benford, who paid for the camp experience. According to Gary, the most important thing he took from "Coach K" wasn't related to basketball at all.
He said Krzyzewski told him: "You are the driver of your own bus in your life. Only allow good people on your bus, and only get on a bus that has all good people on it. If you do that, you will be successful."
If his route to-date is any indication, Gary's bus appears to be heading in the right direction. As president of his school's Future Business Leaders of America program, he was accepted to attend Pennsylvania Free Enterprise Week at Lycoming College this summer, where he won the best project management score out of nearly 600 students. He is a member of the National Honor Society, Spanish Honor Society and student council, and serves as editor of the Rohistat, Rockwood's student newspaper.
In addition, he is a member of the gifted program, he takes college preparatory courses and five college credit classes through Allegany College of Maryland and the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown.
In his spare time he has volunteered at local food banks and at Mount Macrina Manor in Uniontown, landscaping for the Alzheimer's unit and assisting management with miscellaneous duties. He served as chairman of the "Hunger Strike: Hunger Never Sleeps" program at the school, which raised $500 for the nonprofit Freedom From Hunger organization.
In sports he has been named to the 2011-12 All-WestPAC Team, the 2011 Bill Lamp Memorial Tournament All-Tournament Team and the 2011 Berlin-Holiday Shootout All-Tournament Team.