Learning on the college hardwood

Published 3:19 pm Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Many young basketball players of all experience levels were in training on and off the court at Longwood University last week.

Seventy-five boys and girls, ages 5-16, participated in the third annual Jayson Gee Basketball Camp that ran June 13-16. In addition to out-of-state campers, there were also those representing Charlotte, Lunenburg, Buckingham, Cumberland and Prince Edward counties.

“It was a tremendous show of support from the community that I was really excited about,” Longwood Head Men’s Basketball Coach Jayson Gee said at the conclusion of the camp. “We had so much participation from people around the area and starting to see some familiar faces after three years, and of course, the local YMCA, to contribute with them and to them (being) a part of this made it that much more special.”

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Many campers participating came from the Southside Virginia Family YMCA.

Gee and his coaching staff were prepared for participants of all experience levels.

“We start with beginners, people that have never seen a basketball before,” Gee said. “We start at a young age. We had a lot of 5-year-olds here, and we just try to teach the beginners and introduce them to the game, as well as the fundamentals of the game. But we also do an education component. We had several professors on campus that met with the kids during the day. We toured the campus.”

Lower baskets were provided for younger campers so they, too, could experience success.

“We didn’t want any camper to go home without making a basket,” Gee said.

Gee assembled a coaching staff for the camp that included his assistants at Longwood, coaches from the area and Longwood players.

“It’s going well,” Longwood freshman forward JaShaun Smith said of the camp on Thursday. “I feel like the kids have learned a lot more about skill development and ball handling, defense and shooting. … I can tell from Sunday to now they’ve gotten a lot better.”

He said his favorite thing about being able to help out at the camp was teaching the campers defense at his station.

Speaking of the camp overall, 10-year-old camper Briana Gee of Farmville said, “It was just really cool to see how you learn different things, and for some people who go here, it’s their first time, so they don’t really know how to dribble or anything, but it was good to see them learn. And that’s one thing this camp does for you — you learn.”

Six-foot-two Christopher Hicks, a 14-year-old camper from Washington, D.C., is no beginner, but he said, “I’m not really good with my left hand, so I learned how to use that, and I learned the proper form on my jump shot and dribbling, because I’m a big man, and I’m not known for dribbling, so I know how to dribble a little better.”

His 13-year-old cousin, Joshua Hicks, came to the camp because of his recommendation. Joshua said, “I learned the proper way to shoot a left-hand layup and the proper way to shoot, and I’ve gotten better on my handles and stuff.”

For many campers, the basketball games played were their favorite part of the week, but 12-year-old Tyler McGrath from Lunenburg County noted his favorite thing was participating with all of the coaches and getting to know them, including the Longwood players.

For Coach Gee, his favorite part of the camp “is seeing the joy on the young people’s faces and introducing the youth of Farmville to a college campus.”