BSC camp

Bluefield State College coaches Gary Brown, left, and Don Jones Jr., work with children at last year’s basketball camp.

BLUEFIELD — The only local basketball camp that puts boys and girls together on the same court has proven to be a success, and next week the opportunity will present itself again.

The Bluefield State College Boys and Girls Skills and Fundamentals Basketball Camp opens its doors Monday for its seventh straight year. Gary Brown, head coach of the BSC Lady Blues, and Don Jones Jr., mentor of the Big Blues men’s team, co-direct the unique camp.

“We feel like it’s one of the best teaching camps in the area,” Brown said. “We don’t do a lot of five-on-five play. We concentrate mostly on developing skills and fundamentals.”

Players from 8 to 18 are divided into age groups with girls and boys learning together, getting instructional help from the college students on the women’s and men’s teams. The week is for individuals to grow in their skill level, rather than having a “team camp,” Brown said.

“We have some three-on-three and some four-on-four, but we put restrictions on what they can do ... to emphasize the skills we’re concentrating on.”

For instance, in some of the games, a team is required to pass the ball multiple times before anyone may shoot.

Brown said the camp has been growing. “Last year we had close to 60 people. We have the chance to grow, now, to the point where we may even need to get another gym,” he said.

“One of the unique things is that girls get to compete against boys, and boys get to compete against girls,” Brown said. “It kind of helps the girls to learn how to be a little bit stronger, and they get experience with the speed of the (boys’) game.”

When the camp leaders divide their students into a series of teams, Brown said, “we mix ’em up, boys and girls together. Most of the kids really enjoy that. For the girls, competing against the boys, a lot of times it brings the best out of them.”

The TV highlights may show only dunks and threes, without the context of what led to them, but Brown designs skill stations where the children learn other essentials.

“We have what we call team cut-rope, four-on-four play where we emphasize passing, screening and cutting. Those are all things basketball players need to learn at an early age,” he said.

Individual contests on the final day of the camp reward dribbling, 3-point shooting and defensive techniques, among other areas. A “32-point drill” requires participants to score on layups, 3-pointers and intermediate shots in rapid succession.

Origins of Brown’s camp concept go back to the late 1990s when he was coaching basketball at Mount View High School.

“At that time I was coaching the girls,” he said. “Clif Moore, then the executive director of the Council of the Southern Mountains, called on me to put together a camp.”

The agency had been charged with empowering residents of all ages in McDowell County and other areas of southern West Virginia that qualified as being economically disadvantaged.

For “about five years,” Brown said, the council funded the summer camp. And what an instructional gem it was. “We had a number of really quality coaches to do a summer camp,” Brown said.

The instructors included John O’Neal, who guided Mercer Christian Academy to state girls’ championships; Randy Jennings and Will Johnson, alumni of southern West Virginia schools and former teammates on powerhouse Concord College (now University) teams; Dave Barksdale, architect of five state titles at Woodrow Wilson High in Beckley; Clinton Giles, a former McDowell County coach who’s now principal at Capital High in Charleston; Gene Banks; and Jack Colobro.

“And I kept the concept,” the BSC coach said. “A lot of this camp came from a lot of the things we did back then.”

Brown said he has also drawn liberally from time he spent learning about basketball camps while working with Don Myers, formerly a coach at Lipscomb University in Nashville.

More information on the camp is available by contacting Brown at (304) 327-4190 or 327-4208.

— Contact Tom Bone


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