Honing skills is kids' goal

Youngsters work up a good sweat preparing for winter basketball

October 03, 2007|By Jeff Seidel | Jeff Seidel,Special to The Sun

Ricky Treanor plopped himself down on the bench with a smile. The nearly 75-minute workout was over, and sweat poured off his forehead, but the 9-year old Annapolis boy still gripped the basketball.

A star center on a team that dominated a local basketball league, he is part of the Fundamentals First camp operated by the city Department of Recreation and Parks that gets kids in shape and sharper for the winter basketball season.

"It made me a better center, and I can shoot better," said Ricky, who also attended the eight-week camp last fall. "It made me faster."

With a voice that booms out of the Recreation and Parks building and halfway down Newman Street, Barry Booth runs this camp that meets weekly. Two age groups labor through it: the 8- to 10-year-olds Tuesdays, and the 11-13 year-olds Thursdays.

Booth is passionate about the game and getting kids to realize that it isn't just about the dunks and flashy plays they see on ESPN.

"Everyone wants to be like Michael Jordan, but what everyone forgets is he was a great fundamental player," Booth said. "I make it fun for the kids, but I try to teach the fundamentals."

His camp is almost completely about drills and teaching. Booth is a good teacher, in part because the kids can't ignore the directions he is barking out at full volume.

Booth had to keep pushing the children, in part because they were playing in a gym where the air conditioning was broken and where the temperature was about 85. It felt like an oven, and the kids dragged.

Booth let them rest for a few moments toward the end of the practice before making them run the dreaded "suicides," when players sprint from the end line up the court for about 15 feet, touch the ground and run back. They keep doing it until they have eventually run from one end to the other, breathing heavily all the way.

This is what Ricky Treanor, a 5-foot-tall fourth-grader at St. Mary's School, expected. He worked with the 11- to 13-year-olds because he liked the difficulty.

A center plays with his back to the basket but must be able to catch the ball and make quick moves to take shots. It's easier said than done. That's what Ricky is working on at this camp.

Maiya Sweeney brought a similar agenda to this camp. The 5-foot-4 center is 12 years old but plays like someone older. She's graceful but athletic enough to compete easily with smaller, quicker players.

Maiya, who wore a shirt displaying her St. Mary's team's perfect record, wants to keep improving.

"It helps me to be a faster, more reliable and more efficient player for my team," she said.

Maiya's concern is her shooting. She works through Booth's various shooting drills, taking each one seriously. The center clearly has the touch; she's just refining it and gaining confidence.

"I can play defense pretty well," Sweeney said. "It's my offense I have to work on "

Her St. Mary's teammate Emily Tower is a seventh-grader and a forward who works just as hard as Maiya Sweeney on the court.

Tower came to this camp last fall and liked the results, so she returned this fall to further improve her offensive game.

"It helped me a lot here last year with the fundamentals," Tower said. "But I like basketball, and I like to get better."

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