Basketball players from across the province descended upon Lake Lenore for the Hometown Hoops Basketball Camp.
The camp, which ran from July 23-25 was the 21st edition, featured three different sessions, with a bantam group consisting of students in grade’s 1-4, a junior group featuring students in grade’s 5-8, and a senior group with students in grade’s 9-12.
The camp featured an uptick in registrations this year, with approximately 70 kids in attendance, including 14 bantams, 22 juniors, and 35 seniors.
Last year’s camp featured 60 players, with camp organizer Jillian Weseen noting the growth is thanks in large part to word of mouth.
“I think people are just getting excited about basketball… We send it out to all the schools in the area and then it’s kind of up to them to let the kids know about it.”
Past camps have featured kids from all over the province including some from Alberta and Manitoba, and this year’s camp was no different with players coming from Manitoba, Saskatoon, and La Ronge, as well as many other communities.
Seeing so many kids come from all over is great, says Weseen.
“It’s excellent to bring in talent and kids from all around to get a little more diversity. For the kids who come regularly to see different players come in too is good. It’s good to develop players all over, not just in our area.”
Campers had the chance to learn many skills from many talented coaches and basketball players, including Margaret De Ciman; who played NCAA DI basketball at Louisiana Tech and played professionally overseas in France, Spain and Portugal, Maxwell Amoafo; who is a member of the University ofSaskatchewan Huskies, Angela Baran; a current member of the Lakeland College Rustlers, Carla Puetz; a former Huskie, Weseen; another former Husky, as well as local high school basketball coaches including Lake Lenore’s Curtis Strueby and former Naicam coach Pat Telfer.
“We bring coaches in from the outside so we get more experience and wisdom from outside of the community as well,” said Weseen.
The local coaches have been a constant at the camps for the last number of years, but so too has De Ciman, who just wrapped up her third year as guest coach.
The Regina native says coming back is an easy decision because it is a great learning experience for her as a coach.
“The kids work hard, they’re very dedicated to the sport, they have great work ethic and it’s beautiful to see that with young people enjoying and playing basketball.”
One of the most impressive parts of being at the camp is not only seeing the improvement day-over-day but year-to-year as well, says De Ciman.
“I’ve seen the faces that were here two years ago and that growth is amazing. That means they’re working on themselves, they’re helping out their high school teams and you can just see the growth.”
While De Ciman saw lots of talent amongst the players, the Regina native says she hopes to see the kids come away from the camp with a greater understanding of their weaknesses and a greater determination to improve those.
Overall, Weseen was pleased with how the week turned out, saying it was “so much fun.”
“We saw lots of smiles on the kids faces and we worked on everything; ball handling, passing, shooting, team skills. So hopefully they can take all those skills back to where they are and use it and be successful. That’s all we want is for kids to be successful and have fun playing a game that I love.”
Seeing the smiles, and having that fun atmosphere is an important part of the camp, says Weseen.
“You don’t want them to be afraid to make mistakes… you want them to be comfortable and I think what sets our camp apart is that we are co-ed and we have boys playing against girls and girls playing against boys and there’s no problems... I think it’s really great for the girls and the boys to compete together,” she said.
While the camp went well on the court, a big part of the reason was sponsorship, which Weseen says is so critical.
“We had some pretty big ones this year, SaskTel, SaskEnergy and then there’s a huge list of local Humboldt, Lake Lenore, Naicam, sponsors who donated either money, prizes, gift certificates, things like that. So we were pretty happy with the sponsorship we got this year. We couldn’t do it without them.”
With the camp now complete, Weseen says they will take a break over the winter, before getting back into planning next spring.
While Weseen will be busy organizing, one area she will not have to worry about is one of the coaches, with De Ciman noting she is already looking into coming back for a fourth year.
“It’s a pleasure coming out here every year. I look forward to it, I try to make a time in my schedule for Hometown Hoops and I make it work and I’m going to keep coming back as long as I can.”