Matthew (left) attempts to steal the ball from Cash during a three-on-three competition on the final day of last week’s youth basketball camp. Gini Davis/The Creswell Chronicle
Dribbling, passing, individual defense and shooting were fundamental skills practiced during a coed youth basketball camp held June 17-19 at Creswell High School.
”Almost every drill is something that they can do year-round on their own to progress their skill level,” said Jesse Thomas, CHS’ boys head coach.
Coaches and returning players worked with 45 campers, who were divided into two groups based on school grade (3rd-5th, 6th-8th).
There were daily shooting and ball handling contests, and a three-on-three tournament on Wednesday.
The older group competed in an eight-team, three-on-three tournament with round-robin seeding on Tuesday, with a final double-elimination tournament Wednesday.
Payden Criddle coached the Dragons to the tournament title.
Thomas said the camp is a mix of newcomers and returning players.
”Every year we have returning campers and a fairly large number of new campers who haven’t attended before,” Thomas said. ”Some are brand new to basketball, and it’s a great way to introduce them to the game.”
As someone who grew up attending high school-hosted camps himself, Thomas recognizes the important role older players have in mentoring younger ones.
”I think it’s cool for kids to get to interact with high school players; I see a lot of the value of camp being that familiarity,” Thomas said. ”The high school players really enjoy interacting with the younger kids, and I think the kids equally enjoy the time spent with the high school players.”
As a coach, Thomas also enjoys watching skills progress in returning campers: ”At least once a year I get to see that the younger kids are still working on skills I’m trying to teach them,” he said.
Learning fundamental game skills at the elementary, middle school and JV level equips younger players to contribute to the varsity programs that youth camps help build and maintain – and Thomas sees that philosophy at work in his own program this year.
”Knowing we had to replace two guards like Tayler (Forsman) and Andrew (Spence), you wonder who’s going to fill in for them – but Payden and Carter (Cunningham) fit right in there,” he said, noting that Cunningham attended youth camp through eighth grade and that both worked hard under JV coach Devon Larson last year.
”A JV coach’s main job is getting kids ready to play varsity, and this summer Payden’s been great and Carter’s been solid,” Thomas said, adding that his entire team has been tested and has ”risen to the challenge” against a competitive schedule of 5A and 6A summer league opponents.
”We’ve been really competitive at times and we’ve gotten whipped at times,” Thomas said. ”But ultimately, it’s about learning how to do things right all the time to give yourself a chance to win – and there’s definitely been some times that we’ve been able to put it all together, so it’s been fun.”