Story and photos by Mark Carpenter –
It’s that basketball camp time of the year and for five nights, the gymnasium at West Union High School was filled with the sound of bouncing balls, squeaky shoes, and enthusiastic youngsters as the Dragon coaching staffs hosted a week-long combined camp for girls and boys from kindergarten through sixth grade.
The camp was organized and overseen by West Union High School varsity girls coach J.R. Kirker and recently hired varsity boys coach Greg Himes, both of whom were making their debut with Dragons’ basketball camp.
With the large number of kids involved every night, it was a special challenge to keep everyone organized as the action was broken down into stations such as ball handling, passing, rebounding, shooting, and defense for the K-2 group, and adding boxing out and more technical skills for the 3-6 group.
“This first camp has been a great experience for me working with the younger kids,” said Coach Kirker. “Teaching them the fundamentals of the game has been a good week for us. I was really surprised by how many good kids we have at the pee-wee level, on the girls side especially.”
“I wasn’t expecting 58 kids with this being my first year doing this, but it’s been a great turnout and I’ve been really impressed.”
Himes will being his initial season at the helm of the WUHS varsity boys program this winter and also spoke to The Defender about his first Dragon camp experience.
“We’ve had great numbers this week and great volunteers and the kids are working really hard and they’re excited about West Union basketball and that’s one thing we want to do is get the youth falling in love with the game,” said Coach Himes.
As a special treat for the campers on the final night (May 26), former Xavier University standout and Harlem Globetrotter Sherwin Anderson brought a new level of enthusiasm to the camp. Anderson worked with the campers on various fundamental skills of which he is quite qualified, according to his website- highly regarded nationally as a basketball trainer of elite student athletes, having trained professionals, Division I college players, High School All-Americans, and aspiring young people to be highly skilled, fiercely competitive leaders who become winners in every area of life.
A camp with 58 youngsters in the gym all at one time cannot be a success without a whole host of volunteers, and the Dragons camp was loaded, both with volunteer coaches and high school players who were on hand to help.
One of the coaches on hand was the Dragons’ JV boys coach, Austin Kingsolver.
“The kids really look like they are having fun,” said Kingsolver. “We just want to get them in the gym, teach them fundamentals, and expose them to the high school players.”
Along with Kingsolver, other volunteer coaches included Frankie Rowe, Jai Vogler, Buck Campbell, Silas Mills, Mike Knox, Danny Welch, Ryan Brewer, Todd Ellis, and the always enthusiastic T.J. Liston.
A lengthy list of high school players was on hand to assist the youth campers, including: Jaycee Baldwin, McKenzie Kirker, MacKenzie Bickett, Kiersten Rowe, Harley Silvia, Haley Daniels, Kaley Daniels, Sianna Mills, Alexa Rowe, Kaitlyn Davis, Kaden Francis, Bowan Tomlin, Eli Fuller, Garrett Vogler, Tanner Neal, Jai Michael Knox, Ryan Rothwell, Clayton Madden, Elijah McCarty, and Zane Kingsolver.
“It’s neat getting to know all these kids and trying to help build the Dragon program,” said senior-to-be Elijah McCarty. “I think the kids seem to be enjoying it and you can see the progress from the first day until the last.”
The list of campers for the week included: Adam “AJ” Cooper, Grayson Day, Piper Stapleton, Lauren Ellis, Gavin Rowe, Ashtyn Applegate, Mason Fegan, Ryleigh Gustin, Eric Stanfield, Jakab Thompson, Nate Fooce, Dakota Stanfield, Brylee Mills, Emmy Stapleton, Peyton Abner, Jordan Gifford, Violet Randolph, Gaige Knox, Kenyen Copas, Lea McNeilan, Logan Caldwell, Kaylee Vogler;
Kyla Kidder, Lily Randolph, Trae Grooms, Tegan Knox, Braydon Taylor, Daulten Davis, Hunter Dearth, Carsen Francis, Raegan Kersey, Shellby Boldman, Sara Boldman, Elayna Kingsolver, Wesley Ellis, Brennan Pollitt, Emily Evans, Taylor Dozier, Jesse Dozier, Clare Stapleton, Payton Stapleton, MaKenna Armstrong, Colby Harover;
Teslyn McClanahan, Tallie McClanahan, Ty McClanahan, Daulton Shupert, Thomas Dickens, Rylee Ferrell, Lucas Dickens, Jaida Harrison, Lillian Wooten, Latham Case, Zach Shoemaker, Chesnee Ayres, William Flaugher, Branson Grooms, Raylee Brummett, and Colton Abner.