Happy campers hoop it up for the love of the game
Story by Rick Vacek
Photos by Darryl Webb
GCU News Bureau
Want to see kids having good, clean fun? Just watch them bounce around one of the summer basketball camps at Grand Canyon University.
The sight of eager beaver boys joyfully firing away at the hoop alongside GCU players and coaches was one of the many keen scenes on campus during the first week of the camps, which will stretch through the end of the month.
The next camp for boys is scheduled for June 15-18 on campus, and there also will be one at Scottsdale Community College June 22-25. The girls have four separate camps coming up, starting with a team camp Thursday through Saturday (it already has 44 teams signed up). There are openings in all. For a complete list of all summer camps at GCU, including signup information, click here.
The popularity of the Dan Majerle Boys’ Basketball Camps has grown steadily since he was hired as GCU’s head coach in the spring of 2013. There were 60 participants in the first year, only a few weeks after he got the job, but then 230 in 2014 and 360 (and counting) this year. They get to use the facilities in the Lopes Performance Center and Antelope Gym and also take aim at the baskets in GCU Arena.
Luke DallaRiva, director of basketball operations, said some participants are enrolled in all three sessions, and it was not unusual for parents to add an extra week or two when they saw the camp for themselves. There are discounts for multiple camps and for families that have more than one child who wants to attend, and 55 scholarships were awarded to boys from families in need.
It’s not hard to see why they want to keep coming back. The atmosphere is lively as well as educational, filled with drills that can get an 8-year-old moving like a jumping bean while he’s learning basketball skills. It was especially hilarious to watch a large gaggle of youngsters, on command, fall backward (as if they’re taking a charge), dive forward (going after a loose ball), jump (rebounding) and move side to side (playing defense).
Particularly popular with the campers were the games of “Deal or No Deal,” in which a camper is offered a prize but can earn a better one by making a longer shot, and “Coaches vs. Campers,” another shooting game that decides who gets to dive into lunch first.
Most of the GCU basketball players, including new recruits Keonta Vernon and Grandy Glaze, were on hand to help supervise last week’s camp. Majerle addressed the campers after he returned from a coaches’ convention, urging them to work on their shooting, ball handling, defense, versatility and weaknesses.
“But the most important thing is to have fun,” Majerle said.
Later, he said the large turnout is gratifying because “that was a goal of ours when I came here. The coaching staff does a great job with it.”
It’s a labor of love, said associate head coach Todd Lee. “I enjoy it. It’s hard not to have fun when the kids are having so much fun. These kids just play for the love of the game. It’s contagious.”
Another highlight was Phoenix business leader Jerry Colangelo’s first visit to the camp. “Fall in love with the game because it’s a great game,” the former Phoenix Suns owner told the group.
“Camping is huge,” said Colangelo, who used to organize camps sponsored by the Suns. “It’s a great opportunity to expose the kids to the game. And I love the fact that our players are here to work with them.”
With all those smiling faces, it sure didn’t look like work.
Contact Rick Vacek at 602-639-8203 or [email protected]