Camp teaches basketball skills, more to area youngsters
MOUNT VERNON — College basketball may be your dream or you may be trying out basketball for the first time. Either way, boys from the third through ninth grades got a chance to be part of a real college basketball program for a week — with real college coaches.
All of it has taken place this week at Ariel Arena. Mount Vernon Nazarene University’s summer basketball camp, now in its fourth year, attracts boys from all over the area, and a little bit beyond. They keep coming back each year for what this camp gives them, on the court as well as off.
“The main goal of the camp is to get kids around the players in our program,” said MVNU head men’s basketball coach Jared Ronai. “Also, we want to teach the real values of what Cougar basketball is to us. We want to teach the fundamentals of the game and we hope that they are learning a lot about the game of basketball, but the most important part is we want them to know what it looks like to be a good teammate and have good sportsmanship.”
The stated priorities of the summer basketball camp at the Naz reflect the school’s entire sports program — God, family, teammates and self.
“That’s a big part of our Cougar culture,” Ronai said. “That’s something that we’re obviously trying to emphasize here at camp. We want them to learn a lot here, have fun and make some friends.”
Ronai is starting to see how his summer camp is beginning to impact the area basketball community. After four years, he is seeing some of his campers coming back for basketball shootouts as members of area high school jayvee squads. He expect that to grow and spread to area varsity rosters as well.
“I would love to see the day that we get a real Cougar camper to actually play for us,” Ronai said. “Our camp has grown every single year. There is a nucleus of kids who keep coming back every year. Hopefully, we can continue to give them a positive experience.”
Keeping any group of kids focused for a six-hour day is quite a job, but Ronai and his assistant coaching staff keep things moving all day. Having a mid-day lunch break with pizza also helps. Parents and local coaches are giving the camp high marks.
“The best feedback we get is that we get a lot of returners,” Ronai said. “Kids continue to come back. I got an email from a father just saying how much he appreciated the kind of structure and teaching of the camp.”
Fredericktown’s Trevor Bellman, 13, is improving his dribbling and shooting skills.
“I’m also working on my footwork,” Bellman said. “My parents both went to (MVNU). I like to get a chance to get in here and play with kids I wouldn’t get to see in school ball.”
One of those kids is Braylon Morris of Heath, age 12. He is also the son of MVNU alumni.
“I’m learning a lot,” Morris said. “I’m improving on my shooting and my ball handling. It’s a great camp to go to, I really like it. I really like the campus, overall.”
Morris will go into middle school basketball next season. Bellman, a point guard, is already playing. He’s a Kobe Bryant and LeBron James fan and has his sights set on playing in high school. Morris has loftier ambitions.
“I want to go to the NBA,” Morris said. “Kyrie Irving is my favorite player.”