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NHS hosts Alcorn basketball camp

Alcorn State University men’s basketball coach Luther Riley high-fives Ashari Morris, 10, as she and teammates Breonna McDonald, 10, center left, Kennedy Wansley, 10, center, and Kelsey McNeal, 9, right, stand in a huddle before a scrimmage Tuesday afternoon during the ASU basketball camp at Natchez High School. (Lauren Wood \ The Natchez Democrat)

NATCHEZ — Eleven-year-old Ray Shoemaker Jr. traveled all the way from Tupelo to make it to the Alcorn State basketball camp at Natchez High School.

It’s a bit of a distance, Shoemaker admitted, but the trip was worth it, since he got to work with Alcorn men’s basketball coach Luther Riley.

Shoemaker said his father, Ray Shoemaker Sr., told his son it would be a good idea to go to Alcorn’s camp.

“He said Coach Riley knows the fundamentals of basketball and knows how to teach it well,” Shoemaker Jr. said.

“He’s a nice guy, and he’s fun when he coaches. He’s all business, but sometimes he plays around.”

NHS played host to the Alcorn basketball staff Monday and Tuesday, and both local children and children from out of town participated. Riley said the camp is designed to both teach the game of basketball and generate interest in Alcorn’s program.

“We wanted to bring our summer camp to Natchez, both to share the fundamentals of the game and the way we do things at Alcorn,” Riley said.

Riley also said it was important for young, aspiring basketball players to get the basics down early.

Kenbrique Morgan, 17, right, goes up for a shot as Tommy McCoy, 15, goes up for a block during a scrimmage Tuesday afternoon at the camp. (Lauren Wood \ The Natchez Democrat)

“I’ve always been a guy that loves to teach the game,” Riley said. “Beginning at the youth level, if you want a chance to be good and play for Alcorn or any other Division I school, you have to be good coming out of high school.”

Alexis Morris, an eighth grader from Beaumont, Texas, said she heard about the camp from her grandparents, who live in Natchez. She said she’s learned several things from Riley, including good defensive stances, keeping the ball low, and the correct shooting form and techniques.

“If you keep the ball high, nine times out of 10, the ball is going to get stolen,” Morris said.

“Coach Riley helped me improve my shot and my defense, and he taught me more knowledge of the game.”

NHS girls basketball coach Alphaka Moore was on hand to help Riley with the camp, and she said she felt like the participants were getting a lot out of the camp.

“The kids are getting a lot of good info that will stick with them for the rest of their lives,” Moore said. “If they keep at it, they’ll end up being pretty good.”

NHS boys assistant coach David Haywood was also happy to help out, he said, because it helps his school build good camaraderie with Alcorn.

“Alcorn could end up being a nice landing spot for our players,” Haywood said. “Back when I was playing, we had to have a couple of games up there to accommodate our crowds. It’s good to have an open relationship with them.”

Riley said the camp will serve as a satellite camp for the school’s overnight camp, which takes place on campus June 24-27.

“The more you get motivated about our program and institution, the more our morale goes up,” Riley said. “You want people to be talking about Alcorn in this state, especially in this area.”

Even if it’s a lengthy drive from his hometown, Shoemaker said he would make it again if he could attend the camp one more time.

“It’s so much fun, and I like the things (Riley) teaches us,” Shoemaker said.