Thursday, July 3, 2008

Team camps about more than wins, losses

Exposure to life, recruiters can be beneficial, albeit expensive

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Nowadays, it seems like basketball season never ends.

As county summer leagues wrap up and give way to the national AAU championships, there is little break for high school basketball players.

And in addition to those events, team camps have become popular summer options over the past decade. The camps are sort of like extended summer leagues, but they serve an important purpose.

‘‘I would say it’s just a chance to get used to playing with each other and building team chemistry,” said Eleanor Roosevelt High boys’ basketball coach Brendan O’Connell. ‘‘The season is still so far way, wins and losses don’t really matter, we’re just trying to get the kids a chance to play.”

Roosevelt senior point guard Francis Ashe said team camps have more functions than just X’s and O’s and jump shots.

‘‘I think they allow us to bond with our teammates,” said Ashe, whose team participated in a team camp last weekend at American University. ‘‘So far this summer, we’ve had to deal with people on our team who are also playing football and injuries and don’t get the chance to be on the court with the rest of the team. [Last weekend], we actually had the chance to see what [the team] had to work on and improve in.”

Gwynn Park boys’ coach Mike Glick likes the opportunity a team camp provides, but added that he doesn’t look too much into performance during the camps.

‘‘We decided to attend the U.S. Naval Academy team camp [June 13-15] because not only does it create team building, but it gives our students an opportunity to see a different side of life,” Glick said. ‘‘They have the chance to be spending time with their teammates and players they don’t know on college campuses. It’s a 100 percent positive experience, but I wouldn’t read too much into the wins and losses of the camp. It’s not an indication of what your team is going to be like.”

Another crucial aspect of team camps is that individual players are offered the chance to show their talents to college coaches. Some team camps on college campuses aren’t designed as recruiting events, but coaches from the host college are present and watching. Others, like the Eastern Invitational Elite Team Camp, are not affiliated with any university. And as a result, camps like the Eastern Invitational have an advantage over camps held on college campuses, because many college coaches attend.

‘‘Our biggest thing is exposure,” said EI Elite Team Camp Co-Director Michael Farrelly. ‘‘We want to provide a forum for high school programs to play against really good competition. The feedback that we’ve gotten from coaches is that they want to play and want to get the kids exposure. It’s very rare that we’ve had a bad experience.”

The EI Elite Team Camp started in 2001 with 12 teams. Farrelly said this year’s camp, set for July 9-10 at the College of New Jersey in Ewing, N.J., will include 72 teams, including Bishop McNamara, Bladensburg, Eleanor Roosevelt, Laurel and Riverdale Baptist. More importantly, Farrelly added, more than 200 colleges coaches are expected to attend.

Team camp does have a drawback. Participation can be expensive.

‘‘I think this year going to a team camp was a double-edged sword,” said Charles H. Flowers boys’ basketball coach George McClure. ‘‘The travel part, that’s an issue. This day and age, it’s so many expenses coming up, like with gas, it’s time to rethink how you do everything. We went to the [Naval Academy] camp where we didn’t have to pay as much because we can commute back and forth.”

The EI Elite Team Camp will charge $100 per player as the standard rate, which includes jerseys. The overnight rate is $190 per player, including housing and meals.

While the rates are expensive, Ashe said many players and their families view it as a worthwhile cost.

‘‘Money can probably be an issue,” he said. ‘‘I think parents sometimes see the benefit of team camps and would pay the price. They look at it as their kids and their college future and can actually benefit in the long run.”

E-mail Terron Hampton at thampton@gazette.net.