By BOB REDD
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
The sound of squeaking sneakers and coaches’ whistles filled the air at the Bluefield City Auditorium as the Hoops Drills and Life Skills Basketball Camp entered its second day.
Under the direction of Bluefield High School boys basketball coach Buster Large and sponsored by CASE WV, youth from throughout the region are taking part in the week-long activity.
“We have kids from Bluefield, Graham, Tazewell, one visiting from Georgia, Mount View and Princeton,” Large said. “This is the third year we’ve had this and I think it is one of the premier basketball camps in the area. There’s a lot of work that has been put into it.”
Each day the camp starts at noon with lunch. Then the players head onto the court where they receive instruction in the game and hear from speakers who give them encouragement and advice on life issues.
Monday’s speaker was former NFL player and scout Maurice Gravely, currently the director of SPARKS Inc., a youth empowerment program based in Princeton. Tuesday the campers heard from Bluefield College men’s basketball coach Richard Morgan who was an all-conference player at the University of Virginia.
“Not only do they get educated on making right choices — trying to stay out of trouble, they work on basketball skills, learning skills, listen to mom and dad — it’s all tied in making it a great camp,” Large said.
Jim Pettus is the program director for CASE’s Youth Enrichment Services Program. A former basketball player at Princeton High School, Pettus said the two, youth enrichment and sports, go hand-in-hand.
“The emphasis is basketball fundamentals, but we’re also talking to kids about character development and making good decisions as they are going through those teen years,” Pettus said. “We just wanted to provide something in the community to give kids something to do in the summer months.
“With my background in sports, this is just a way to bring the two together and provide some healthy activities through sports. It gives kids age 8-14 an opportunity to come out and be active.”
In addition to Large and Pettus, other instructors at the camp are former West Virginia Blazers and present Bluefield High School assistant coach Tony Webster, former Princeton High player and current college official Mike Eades, former BHS coach Jeff Boyles, James Green and several members of the BHS 2013 championship team.
Large said the campers are enthusiastic and the assistance of the Beavers players brings excitement to the youngsters.
“Having won that state championship has brought a spark to these kids eyes,” Large said. “They see Michael Yost, Lykel Collier, Anthony Eades, just to name a few...they are great role models to young children, and believe me, there are a lot of children here who want to grow up and become a better basketball player, especially a Bluefield Beavers’ basketball player.”
Large said the attitude of the campers is beyond description.
“These kids come in here to work,” Large said. “I thank them so much for getting out there. There’s a lot to do in the summertime, but they’re getting in here, they’re listening to these guys that are sending a great message about making good decisions, making the right choices in life and we’re just tickled to death to have all of these kids.”
— Contact Bob Redd at