Big finish for Back 2 Basics
The final night of this summer's Back 2 Basics Basketball Camp had frenzied full-court fast breaks, sweet shooting, an overtime and a special guest speaker from Miami on his way up to Baltimore.
More than 50 young players turned out for the camp, in its second year run by Donna Taylor, some current and former Southern Lee basketball standouts and Lee County Parks and Recreation. Inside the gym at the Bob E. Hales Center, the campers didn't care about the sweaty conditions, only about going head-to-head for the camp tournament title.
"This has been a great camp," said Taylor, a former coach at Southern Lee who's started and organized this camp for its first two years. "This year, the excitement level by the kids has been awesome."
For the first four weeks, campers focused on fundamentals, under the instruction of Taylor and her counselors, not much older than some of the 13-15-year old group, which was on the hardwood Thursday. Each night had a main focus, such as passing or defense. To close camp with a bang, a night of full-court games allowed the players to show the fundamentals in action.
"These kids will have the opportunity to play on their school teams this coming year and that's exciting for them, so that's what it's about," Taylor said.
Former Southern Lee, then Elon University, star wide receiver Aaron Mellette watched the camp tournament, chatting quietly with some of the campers while they were on the bench. Mellette, just getting into town from Miami before heading back to Maryland for the start of training camp - rookies report Sunday - with the Baltimore Ravens, who made Mellette a seventh-round draft pick in April, then spoke to all the campers huddled around.
He talked about the importance of hard work, on the playing court or field along with in school, as well as respecting and listening to parents, teachers and coaches.
Teaching respect and work ethic, and how they're key for a lot more than hoops, is part of the whole Back 2 Basics summer.
"It's been a pleasure and a joy during the last four weeks to work with your kids. They've been very coachable and very respectful," Taylor said to parents while thanking them.
Taylor also commended her counselors, who were also team coaches, drill instructors, referees and friends.
"I'm very thankful to them," she said. "This shows they want to give back to the community and give back to kids."