Story by Mike Kilen
Photos by David Kadlubowski
GCU News Bureau
Fabian Spencer and his 11-year-old son DJ were floored when they entered the Canyon Activity Center earlier this month.
Ten full basketball courts gleamed under the lights of the new, 136,000-square-foot facility — its first summer as home to Grand Canyon University’s eight basketball camps.
“This building is amazing,” said Spencer, of Ahwatukee, Ariz. “Three years ago, we brought the kids to this camp, and we were in two or three different buildings. When we walked into this building, we said, you don’t see this too often, maybe in California.”
The CAC, as it’s called, is as huge as an airport hangar — for hoopsters who want to fly.
The 160 athletes, ages 6-14, warmed up with jumping jacks and running drills after GCU assistant basketball coach Chris Crevelone provided inspiration: “Get better today. Get better tomorrow. Then you will reach your goals.”
He also could tell them that lunch was pizza, all under the same roof in a facility that holds lunch tables and numerous sofas and chairs that flank the basketball courts.
“It is, by far, the best facility in the state of Arizona,” Crevelone said. “We can all be together, not running around campus.”
The new complex is a vital cog in the growing enterprise of summer athletic camps at GCU. By the end of July, nearly 5,000 young people will have spent time on campus participating in 36 camps for volleyball, soccer and basketball, which is the largest. More men’s basketball camps are planned this week, Thursday-Saturday, and June 17-20.
Why is it growing?
“First, we provide a service to the community where the kids can be active. In an age of cell phones and video games, running and exercise isn’t at a premium anymore,” said Theon Carrier, director of camps and clinics.
“Second, all our (NCAA) Division I coaches are involved in these camps, so they really get good instruction.
“And, when I was a kid, my heroes were players. Here they get to interact with them.”
Trey Drechsel is a former GCU player who helped coach on Tuesday.
He remembers going to camps as a young man in his native Seattle; there was nothing like the CAC.
“Everyone is visible,” he said. “You can see what everyone is doing.”
Large gaps between the courts keep stray balls or collisions to a minimum. And each court has a scoreboard and shot clock for competitive games that were set for the afternoon.
“The best part of camp is they just get to play basketball a lot,” Drechsel said. “And they get to form new friendships.”
The athletes were in the midst of four days of skills instruction and competition, game play and coach inspirations.
“Raise your hand if you want to play high school basketball,” Crevelone instructed the group. (All raised their hands).
“Raise your hand if you want to play college basketball on a scholarship,” he continued. (Nearly all raised their hands).
“Raise your hand if you want to play in the NBA?” (Only a few didn’t raise their hands).
“It starts with fundamentals,” he said.
The drills soon started, the echoes of “defense” and “rebound” bouncing through the enormous space.
“It’s a great advertisement for our program,” Crevelone said of the basketball camps. “The more interaction the kids have with players, the more they want to support our players. It also gets many people on campus to see our facilities.”
“We walked in yesterday, the boys were amazed,” Fabian Spencer said. “Just how big and new it is.”
Grand Canyon University senior writer Mike Kilen can be reached at email@example.com or at 602-639-6764.