Return to camp a return to childhood for coach Drew

GCU basketball camp lets youth flex their skills but also have fun.

Story by Mike Kilen
Photos by Garrett Ohrenberg

GCU News Bureau

Bryce Drew looked at home at his first day camp, talking up parents and youngsters as they took to the 10 basketball courts at Grand Canyon University's Canyon Activity Center.

Last year’s camps in his first season as the GCU men’s basketball coach were canceled because of COVID-19, so Monday was a return to normalcy and a familiar recollection of childhood.

GCU coach Bryce Drew is active at summer camps.

“I kind of grew up at camp,” he said. “My dad was always at camps, so I was at them all summer. I’m used to it.”

His dad, Homer Drew, is a College Basketball Hall of Fame former coach of Valparaiso. Bryce is the former Valpo star and NBA player who took the Lopes to their first-ever NCAA tournament just three months ago.

His steady presence at this and other team and individual camps throughout the summer at GCU is not lost on the parents.

“The reason we chose GCU is they involve the coaches and players. A lot of camps don’t do that,” said Anthony Sharett, father of Isaac, 8. “Secondly, we thought it was affordable for an all-day day camp.”

This week’s camp for ages 6 to 16 runs through Thursday, and Drew kicked it off by introducing current and former GCU players who would take the campers through skill stations on each court. He asked them how tall they thought Asbjorn Midtgaard is.

“6-foot-5,” said one youngster.

The correct answer is 7-foot, guessed by a child who stood next to the GCU center and came up to his belly.

Midtgaard finished his career at GCU in March by leading the nation in field goal percentage.

Camp participants see game action as well as skills training.

“Unfortunately, I’m not at the finishing station,” Midtgaard said. “I’m at the rebound station.”

Towering over them, he tossed a basketball against the backboard and showed off the form – leaping to grab the ball with two hands, pulling it toward his chest and thrusting out his elbows. (That differed from the finishing station in the next court where elbows were in for proper shooting form).

“This is not to just come and hang out and play a little basketball,” he said before drills started. “We want to teach them some stuff. But, also, we want to show them some fun, show them that basketball is a good time.”

The bouncing basketballs of 150 participants echoing in the massive 136,000-square-foot facility was music to the ears of leaders in a GCU program on the rise.

“It’s great for our players to meet people in the GCU family and a lot of kids that might come to games,” Drew said. “We want to keep building the brand and exposure for the University, so the more people who step foot on our campus and in our facilities get to see what a special place this is.”

The camp is just one 20 sports camps in June and July at GCU.

Camp at GCU is all about fun.

Some youngsters come to basketball camp raring to go, gunning up three-pointers and eagerly showing off ball-handling drills in the front row, while the shy ones might shed a few tears or have parents and staff coax them out to the court. It’s all about learning and connecting for all types of athletes.

“It feels like a long time to get here, but it feels like we are back to normal. To actually have kids in our facilities, we just feel blessed,” said Ryne Lightfoot, GCU’s director of player development, who is the camp’s organizer.

He hopes the camp helps participants improve, in more ways than one.

“Kids are going to learn skills to get better, but we are also going to teach them life lessons,” Lightfoot said. “It all starts with the fundamentals.

“I know a lot of camps like to just let them play. We want to make sure we’re showing them how to play the game with the right skills sets that take their game to a higher level.”

And who better to lead them than coaches and players who last spring were on college basketball’s biggest stage?

“I still want to be part of GCU and the basketball family and be able to give a little back for the support they gave us,” Midtgaard said. “And it’s just fun to be out here working with kids and goof around a little bit.”

Grand Canyon University senior writer Mike Kilen can be reached at [email protected] or at 602-639-6764.


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