One morning last week at his youth camp, Columbus East boys basketball coach Brent Chitty wanted to illustrate to the young boys in attendance the importance of squaring up to the basket before attempting a shot.
If your feet are squared up to the hoop, you’ve got a much better chance of making the shot, Chitty noted as he calmly drained a 12-footer.
Stepping back to the 3-point line, the coach reiterated his point, stopping to properly position his feet before throwing up a shot. Nothing but net.
Then, to drill the point home, he walked out to halfcourt, talking to the group of incoming first- through third-graders the entire time before turning, facing the basket and lofting the ball toward the rim a third time.
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Whether that’s something Chitty could pull off a second time, we might never know — but it was a nice exclamation point for his lesson, one of several he tried to pass on that morning.
Chitty and Columbus North boys coach Paul Ferguson were both in their gyms last week, along with several of their returning players, passing on some of their basketball knowledge to the city’s next generation of hardwood talent.
“We found there’s a lot of kids and families that are really interested in basketball in Columbus,” Ferguson said. “… We want to provide a place for them to learn the game and have some fun.”
East ran all of its camps last week, breaking the morning up into short sessions by age groups — students entering grades one through three first, then grades four to six, then grades seven and eight.
North, meanwhile, spread their camps over three weeks, working with kids entering grades two to five last week. Sixth- through eighth-graders will attend this week, and there will be a shooting camp at month’s end for everyone between grades three and eight.
When working with the youngest campers, the emphasis is on laying a basic foundation of fundamentals that can easily be built upon, the coaches said.
“What we want them to walk away with are simple things that they can do all summer in their driveway, wherever they play at, to make them become a better basketball player,” Chitty said.
For the current Olympians and Bull Dogs players — and those working to earn spots on next year’s varsity rosters — the camps offer not only a chance to earn some points with a coaching staff but also the opportunity to pay it forward.
Chitty said that’s the best way he knows to show gratitude to the coaches he played for and worked under in the past.
“That’s the way you repay — you pass it on,” he said. “Hopefully my guys one day will teach other kids.”
Some of them are already on their way there. Tanner McFall, who will be a senior for the Olympians next winter, says he’s considering becoming a coach one day, and working the camp helps him get a feel for what it takes.
“I remember it wasn’t too long ago whenever I was going to these camps,” he said, “and getting instructed by the players and looking up to them and stuff, so you kind of realize what role you’re playing.”
Of course, none of the players — some of them as young as five years old — who were attending the camps are ready for varsity action yet. But Chitty, Ferguson and their players treated each of the campers as if they could become Columbus’ next big thing.
“You never know what kids here are going to end up maybe even being college athletes or really good high school athletes,” McFall said.
The only way to find out is to help each of them get moving in the right direction.
Columbus North will be holding more boys basketball camps this month:
Who: Players entering grades 6-8
Time: 9 a.m. to noon each day
June 27-30 (shooting camp)
Who: Players entering grades 3-8
Time: 9 a.m. to noon each day