The words “fun” and “grueling” don’t normally go hand in hand.
Hundreds of kids ages 6 to 17 wore a look of intensity on their faces as a team of coaches drilled them mentally and physically as part of the Chauncey Billups Basketball Academy at the Parker Fieldhouse. The four-day camp focused on honing the skills that are most important in a well-rounded basketball player, from crisp passing to proper shooting technique to defensive positioning.
Billups, the Colorado native and former Denver Nugget, brought along L.A. Clippers teammate Chris Paul, the point guard who has dazzled crowds since entering the National Basketball Association in 2005. Both superstars signed shirts and chatted with the kids who attended the camp, then Billups and his team got to work.
Kyle Thompson, 15, came all the way from Lamar, Colo., to participate in the camp for his first time. Like most of the other kids, he is a big fan of Paul and high-flying slam dunk artist Blake Griffin, but it was more than the celebrity attraction that brought him 190 miles north of his hometown. Thompson learned some crucial lessons from the best in the business.
“I learned I need to play better defense,” he said. “I’ve been standing up too straight.”
Thompson, whose sisters live in Parker, said he also realized he needs to hustle more and make the most of his time on the floor, and added that his ball-handling skills could also use some work.
Even on the first day, the camp had some standouts, including a handful of sharp-shooting girls and one 10-year-old Parker boy named Quinten Rock, who seemed to be everywhere on the basketball court and make just about every shot he put up. One coach seemed quite impressed, shouting out every time Rock drained one.
While they worked on things like dribbling and agility, it seemed at times that the kids were in military basic training. They called out in response to instructors’ demands, addressing them as “sir” each time and standing in formation. The camp is designed to not only sharpen basketball skills, but improve the kids’ ability to take direction and criticism. There was also plenty of positive reinforcement for things that were done correctly.