For two weeks for the past four
summers, I have gone back up to school to run our boys' Pro Hoop Basketball Camp with my
team. These camps are where our team earns the majority of our funding for
jerseys, team trips and everything else we might need. The stories and moments
that happen during those two manic weeks are hilarious, debate-inspiring, and
certainly interesting. ---
The boys Pro Hoop Camp is no joke. The camp runs Sunday to Thursday from 9 a.m. to 9:20 p.m., with three meals included each day and a whole bunch of basketball. The first day, the coaches (players on our team) put all the kids in the camp through a variety of drills in order to determine their skill set. Players are divided into three age divisions—D3 for the young guys, NCAA for the 7th-8th graders, and NBA for all the high school kids. Once the drills are completed and we have had a chance to evaluate the players, the coaches hold a draft at dinner on the first night. We fight over who gets the best post, which wing player is better, and who will be the point guard to lead his team to the promised land. The teams are then decided and each coach (or player on my team) puts his team through practices and drills to prepare them for the short mini-season and postseason that will be played out throughout the week in camp.
There is actually quite a bit of strategy involved when coaching your team throughout the week. First off, many of the kids cannot handle running full sets on offense or running multiple defenses, or you just do not have enough time to implement everything you would like. However, the biggest factor in deciding the games is the fact that the full game is not played on the main court our college team plays on. You play half of your game on the full court, and the other half is played half-court on a busted roll-away standard with VERY generous rims. Basically, if you throw the ball as hard as you can at the backboards of the busted baskets, it's more than likely that the ball will gently fall through the rim. As players, we all know this full well and certainly take advantage of it.
Another important nugget of information to take into consideration is how competitive the players on my team are. There is constant smack-talking about whose team is better, each team’s championship odds, who can be traded, and other team’s weaknesses. Oftentimes, it seems as if, as coaches, we players care more about winning the games and the eventual championship more than do some of the kids who are playing in the camp.
In addition to the mini-season and playoffs, each team competes in other events, such as shooting league (where players shoot from different locations to score points), one-on-one, two-on-two, three-on-three, knockout, and a free-throw challenge. If your team isn’t currently playing in a “league game,” then you are doing one of these challenges or participating in a third rotation, where the boys can watch a movie or swim in our campus pool.
Now, if you don’t think that is a long-enough day, we players on the college team actually have much more that we have to do. We wake up at 6:30 every morning to lift weights, demonstrate drills and skill sets throughout the day, and then play pickup at night until about 11. There are not enough Five Hour Energy bottles in the world to help you make it through that schedule for one week, let alone two. Also, during every meal, all of the members of the staff get into heated basketball debates: “Why Dwight Howard is worse at handling the offseason than LeBron,” “Dream Team vs. 2012 Olympic Team” (Read my column about that one), and “Best All-Time Starting Five for every NBA team” are just a few of the topics that we covered over the last two weeks.
Finally, at night, the staff members and we players on the team stay in the dorms with the campers to make sure that they behave themselves, which they never, ever, ever do. Saying it is “lights out” is a waste of your breath, and I couldn’t tell you how many push-ups I have made kids do in the halls for wrestling in their dorms, holding 100-meter relays in the halls and, yes, one kid even smeared his own poop all over the bathroom wall. I couldn’t make that up. The worst part is, he tried to claim that it was his pizza.
After two weeks of camp, I can barely talk from yelling and coaching during games and drills. My body is beat up, and getting out of bed in the morning might be the hardest thing I had to do all day. My mind is fried from all the Five Hour Energy and Red Bulls that I have drunk in the past two weeks. I jammed my thumb playing one night, so it looks like a giant eggplant sitting atop my hands, and I have run through about 50 pairs of socks. However, I wouldn’t change any of it if I had to do it again. Summer Pro Hoop Camp is two of the most fun weeks of my summer, and I look forward to it every year. Oh, by the way, my team won the championship, and I was highly amped about it. Who wants to go ring shopping?