Photos by Ralph Freso/Slideshow
About 150 kids scattered around 10 full courts converged last Tuesday morning in front of Grand Canyon University men’s assistant basketball coach Ed Schilling to learn about positive communication.
The kids, ages 8-16, absorbed Schilling’s messages as he spoke about becoming a great teammate by alerting fellow players about screens set by opponents.
After Schilling’s 10-minute message, the kids reported to their assigned stations to perform an array of basketball drills.
This routine was part of the duties performed at the GCU Men's Basketball Day Camp under head coach Bryce Drew and his staff.
“Even the last (coaching) staff had GCU basketball camps, so kids in the area always have known about it,” said Peyton Prudhomme, Director of Operations for the men’s basketball program. “I would say it’s always been relevant in the area.
“We kept it going and put our new coach’s name on it, added our flavor, and we’ve had a lot of kids return every year.”
The four-day camp is one of five offered by men's basketball. An elite camp, featuring several premier players, is scheduled for June 14, followed by a team camp featuring 40 teams on June 16.
This is one of more 30 athletic camps for boys and girls at GCU that will keep the campus buzzing this summer, covering sports such as tennis, soccer, volleyball, lacrosse and dance, in addition to basketball.
GCU’s spacious Canyon Activity Center features ample space for kids and advanced high school players to participate and receive instruction.
The camp’s 20 instructors include GCU coaches, players, team managers and staff members, along with at least one local high school coach and a guest coach, Prudhomme said.
“When you come to GCU Basketball Camp, you’re getting an experience from working with our Division I players — good players, and coaches who have worked in the NBA and who are Division I coaches,” Prudhomme said. “So, you’re working with players and coaches at the highest level.
“It’s been something we’ve invested a lot of time in, and we have fun, for sure. Players love working it. We have many repeat customers and the same crowd every year, which I think is a good thing. It creates longevity. These kids are going to remember GCU Basketball Camp for the rest of their lives. I think we’re all coaches, so we’ve all been to (basketball) camps growing up, so we want to make it as special as it was for us as kids — all of us coaches and players.”
The camp is far from merely a series of scrimmages. Participants are taught fundamentals, from passing techniques to one-on-one defense and three-on-three drills. The program is designed to teach young players the basics and instill a firm understanding of how they’re improving during a four-day span.
In addition, the campers can familiarize themselves with the GCU campus. Prudhomme credited Josh Lightfoot, GCU’s Campus Recreation Facility Coordinator, for overseeing well-maintained areas.
The exposure to a tidy and modern campus can leave a favorable impression on the young campers who have their sights set on attending college in the future.
The opening session for the day campers featured a surprise visit from DeWayne Russell and Josh Braun, two of the best players in GCU’s history. Russell, who completed his sixth season playing professionally in Europe, is GCU’s career Division I assist leader (423) and ranks second in career Division I scoring average (14.7) and three-point percentage (.388).
Braun was a two-time first-team all-Western Athletic Conference selection as a guard (2015-16, 2016-17) and holds GCU’s Division I records for career points (1,714) and free-throw percentage (.814).
Nate Stokes, who played on GCU’s 1977-78 national champion NAIA team and was a ninth-round pick of the Suns in the 1978 NBA draft, also has attended the camps.
“That’s part of it, too, bringing alumni back to the community,” Prudhomme said.
But fundamentals remain the core of the camps, and the coaches relish coaching in a stress-free environment.
“It takes basketball back to its purest form, in the sense of kids at this age,” Prudhomme said. “It’s nice to break a routine and get out of the office with no pressure and getting kids better. It’s definitely a nice change of pace.”
To see the full slate of summer sports camps go here: https://www.gculopessportscamps.com/
Senior writer Mark Gonzales can be reached at [email protected]