Hoop camp helps develop quality players

Learning from experienced coaches and making friends are two things students of the Penticton Basketball Camp enjoy.

Head coach Kevin Hanson of the UBC Thunderbirds men’s basketball team works with Connor Walkinshaw of Penticton Secondary School during this week’s boys skills camp at Pen High.

Head coach Kevin Hanson of the UBC Thunderbirds men’s basketball team works with Connor Walkinshaw of Penticton Secondary School during this week’s boys skills camp at Pen High.

Learning from experienced coaches and making friends are two things students of the Penticton Basketball Camp enjoy.

It’s what keeps youth like Parker Berry, a Grade 12 Pen High student, coming back year after year.

“Just come here to get better,” said Berry, with beads of sweat on his face. “I’ve been coming for five or six years. I know the coaches pretty well. I always feel that I can get better. It’s not about how you do but what you gain from it.”

A forward for the Lakers, Berry enjoys joking around with the coaches. He also picks their brains to soak up as much information  possible because the knowledge they possess. He also feels they have a unique way of coaching and looking at the game.

One of the coaches assisting UBC Thunderbirds bench boss Kevin Hanson is Aaron Mitchell of the Saint Thomas More Collegiate Knights of Burnaby. Mitchell enjoys helping because the players are respectful and said Fred Fedorak does a good job organizing the camp. Mitchell said having players returning each year allows coaches to see growth in their game. He sees that in Berry.

“He’s a great kid. I think he’s a kid that anyone would love to coach,” said Mitchell. “He’s a hard worker, he never complains. Never quits. Good teammate. Someone that would be an asset to any team because he has a great personality and he’s a leader.”

Mitchell has also noticed Berry getting stronger physically from three or four years ago. The hard work in the gym and training is paying off.

“When camp ends he usually sneaks in the weight room for 45 minutes or an hour,” said Mitchell. “He trains really hard. He’s developed a great post presence. Offensively, he still needs a little bit of work. His overall game has come a long way from when he first started coming to camp.”

Heading into the camp, which started Monday and wrapped up Thursday, Berry was looking to improve his shooting and ball handling. Adding to the enjoyment of learning more about the game is a positive environment meeting more kids as he didn’t know most of them.

One who attended camp for the first time was Connor Walkinshaw. The Grade 10 student decided to attend since a few of his friends did.

“So far it’s actually really good,” he said. “Coaching is good and you meet a lot of people at the same time.”

“There is some good, young talent,” said Mitchell, who won a provincial championship with Terry Fox Secondary School Ravens of Port Coquitlam in 1994, then a national championship with Hanson at Langara College in ’98 before moving on to Brandon University. “Come back every year and you get to see how much the kids have developed. Potential for this group to be pretty solid is there.”

Advice Mitchell gave one player is to attend camps in the Lower Mainland. Travelling outside of their area allows the players to gauge themselves against others. They see where they need to improve because Mitchell said kids in the Lower Mainland have more opportunity by virtue of club teams. He also said that kids can take the initiative to get better.

“Just grab a ball and go to a court and you can improve on your own,” he said. “Get a skipping rope, a couple dumbbells, you can become a good basketball player. It’s just a matter of how bad you want it. How bad you’re willing to work at it.”