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jim hamann⁄the gazetteThe Lakers’ Justin Bowins, on the ground, struggles to maintain possession against Cleveland’s Seth Verderaime during Basketball Coaches Without Boundaries action Saturday in Frederick.
As Ray Whiten is finding out, the sky is the limit with his Basketball Coaches Without Boundaries program.
‘‘It’s going real well,” Whiten said. ‘‘We’re having a lot of interesting things occur.”
Now in its seventh year, the Frederick-based basketball program has expanded beyond organized team play. It also boasts day camps and scholarship programs, and has seen players get scouted. Most importantly, the program’s community ties are continually getting stronger.
For example, there’s the East-West Reunion game, open only to alumni of BCWB. This year, Whiten said, was the biggest game yet.
‘‘This is the third year we’ve done it, and it was the heavier in participation,” Whiten said. ‘‘The kids really came back this year. It’s a transition.”
The program’s age groups are normally divided into juniors (fifth through seventh graders) and seniors (eighth through 10th graders), effectively covering six years of basketball development. In its seventh year, the BCWB’s reunion game had some of its first-ever six-year players return and show off some of their moves.
Whiten noted that such players as Thomas Johnson graduate Jeremy Duvall, bound for Delaware State, and Tuscarora grad Chris Abernathy, heading to Layafette University in Charlotte, N.C., were among the returnees.
‘‘We had guys coming back at the last minute that wanted to play,” he said. ‘‘It’s gotten better each year. There’s a tremendous support that we get from the community.”
In 1999, Whiten put in motion his plan for a summer basketball program. While there already was plenty to do during the summer months—including several baseball leagues—he noticed that basketball was effectively limited to playing in distant summer leagues, church leagues and the occasional camp.
‘‘We were a bunch of guys together, and we were all coaches,” Whiten said. ‘‘Our concept was that we wanted to extend outside of basketball. It was the basketball culture, because we were all basketball coaches, but we were trying to look at things outside basketball. Education was one of the big things.”
Whiten described basketball as the hook, the ‘‘in” to getting kids to pay attention to other life details. This year, BCWB started up a day camp, and each day the Frederick County Health Department has a representative spend an hour talking to the kids about nutrition and health.
They were 41 kids at the camp, and Whiten said about a third had scholarships from BCWB.
‘‘It was a good opportunity for kids that don’t normally get to go to, and afford, summer camps,” Whiten said.
Consider Victor Walker hooked.
The 14-year-old future Thomas Johnson student is in his third year with BCWB. After two summers in the junior division, he’s now on the senior division’s Knicks (the juniors all nab Division-I college names, while the seniors go with NBA franchises).
On Saturday, Victor poured in 10 points, playing mostly the one- and two-guard positions.
‘‘They backed up on me once, my first shot,” Victor said. ‘‘I made it, and after that they put more pressure on me. I did pretty good, at least that’s what everyone told me.”
Victor knows why he kept coming to BCWB, even when he could—and does—get basketball time in at Thomas Johnson’s open gyms. Simply put, it’s a lot of fun.
The Basketball Coaches Without Boundaries finals are scheduled for Aug. 4.