Lil Lopes Skills Camp full of big smiles
Story by Jeannette Cruz
Photos by Darryl Webb
GCU News Bureau
Move over boys — basketball is for girls, too.
That’s the motivation Grand Canyon University’s women’s basketball team members touted as they welcomed about 50 future stars to Antelope Gym on Monday for the first of a two-day program.
“It’s a fun time of year to give back to the kids and their families by hosting a camp like this,” GCU women’s basketball coach Trent May said. “We want to build role models and new fans so that the kids want to come back to GCU and watch the women’s basketball team play.”
In their long shorts, ponytails and neon-colored sweatbands, the girls in the Lil Lopes Skills Camp giggled, dribbled and hopped. But when GCU assistant women’s coach Krystal Thomas strode to center court and blew her whistle twice, the campers instantly froze, slapped the floor and shouted, “Defense!” She blew her whistle once more and the girls rushed to form multiple line combinations across the floor.
“It’s a way to keep them organized and engaged,” Thomas said. “We try to make sure that we give them lots of variety to work with including games and drills like Dribble Tag, Red Light, Green Light, and then we split them up into stations where our players can teach them new sets of skills.”
Thomas, a former Phoenix Mercury player, said the ultimate goal of the camp is to point younger girls to the game of basketball by focusing on form, shooting, passing, dribbling, agility and defense.
So how easy was it to keep the group of 7- to 12-year-old girls engaged?
Casie Rarrick, one of several GCU players who helped coach the camp, had no problem getting her hair braided like Elsa from “Frozen” while she watched the other girls take turns practicing their free-throws. “I come back for this — the smiles, the excitement — and I love getting my hair braided.”
Zelor Massaquoi, who joined Rarrick in coaching the camp this year, said the best part was seeing the mix of personalities and getting as much out of it as the campers.
“Sometimes when you’re a college basketball athlete, every day is about hard work and training to get better, but you look at these girls and they are a reminder of how much fun basketball is, so I feel very appreciative that they look up to us,” Massaquoi said.
Massaquoi and her teammates have been on campus this summer to work out in preparation for the upcoming season, so the camp offered a “refreshing break.”
For Massaquoi, the best part was when she missed a half-court shot and one of the girls ran up to her to console her.
“My heart was about to explode,” Massaquoi said. “I wish I had her at every game to cheer me on even when I miss a shot.”
Randal and Sheri Williams drove to GCU from Yuma to watch their granddaughter, Lexi Stuebs, and the other players. They enjoyed the interactions from the sidelines.
“It’s fantastic what the school is doing for these kids,” Randal said. “They’re giving them the opportunity to be around college basketball players — that’s a big deal.”
Randal, a former high school basketball player himself and a coach at a recreation center in Yuma, said he was beyond impressed with the coaches.
He said he hopes their oldest granddaughter will attend GCU in the future. But for now, he will focus on encouraging his granddaughters to come back to GCU for more basketball.
“We love everything we’ve seen,” Randal said.
Contact Jeannette Cruz at (602) 639-6631 or firstname.lastname@example.org.