The T-shirts given out to the 79 participants at the Gene Bess Basketball Camp’s final week-long session of the summer spell out what the campers are there to do.
“Working on the fundamentals,” the back of each shirt says.
It’s what the campers are there to do. They work through dribbling drills, speed and quickness and shooting drills with scrimmages mixed in and more.
Meanwhile, coaches Gene and Brian Bess and the players who help out, give instructions and pointers to the kids to help their game. Some even get some one-on-one time.
Coach Gene saw a player show what he thought was poor body language during a scrimmage, so he briefly took him aside afterward.
“That’s not like you,” he told the player. “You’re better than that, and you have a bright future ahead of you.”
The player admitted he got frustrated and said he’d work on that going forward.
Coach Gene knows basketball is as much about mental execution as it is physical execution.
“This kid is really a talented young man. He comes from a good family and the whole works. I knew he’d take it right,” Coach Gene said. “That’s what we’re here for. I tell the players, ‘Let’s make it the best week of their lives.’ You don’t want to pass up an opportunity to coach a lot of camps where they’re just kind of like an open gym. I try to encourage my players to correct them when they need it and be there for them.”
While the campers go through a multitude of drills, defense wins the trophies at the end of each camp. The players are divided into several groups, and the Raiders who lead each group pick their group’s defensive player of the week at the end of the camp. That player is given a trophy.
There is no overall player of the week, no shooter of the week, just the defensive award. The final camp’s defensive players of the week were Quin Littles, Eli Evans, Ben James, Reece Anthony, Dallas Matlock and Jared Roderick. The camp does give a defensive player of the day award to a player from each group throughout the week.
“It’s not the most exciting fundamental to work with, but it’s something I think every player needs to have, is a defensive background. They’re going to need it before their career is over,” Coach Gene said. “Defense is going to make a difference in most games that are played, so we try not to pass up any chances that might help these guys become a better defensive player.”
The Raiders who volunteer as camp instructors get to deliberate and choose the winners at the end. Coach Gene feels like it’s another lesson they each get in leadership. He wants them to really engage with the campers and help them get the most out of their experience.
“I’m trying to get our players to be mature and make sure we play on that end of the court,” Coach Gene said. “Eight or 10 years ago, I had a couple of kids come in — they weren’t that young, maybe sophomores or juniors in high school — and about the middle of the camp, they said, ‘We’re going home.’ I asked why and they said, ‘This is too much like an open gym.’
“I use that. I want our players to coach and I want them to be here for the kids.”
This time around, Coach Gene felt like that was accomplished.
“This was really an enjoyable camp. These little guys came in here and really acted like they wanted to get better. I enjoyed this camp more than I have any, maybe,” Coach Gene said.
Nate Fields - Daily American Republic