Area youngsters wind down week of hoops at West camp

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 17, 2003

NATCHEZ &045; About 20 7-, 8- and 9-year-olds, for reasons unclear to them, abided by coach Samuel West’s instructions to break off in to even groups and remove their sneakers at the close of West’s Miss-Lou Basketball Camp Thursday in the Martin Gymnasium.

Seconds later pandemonium followed, as one participant after another raced to the pyramid constructed inside the paint and flailed shoes wildly until they found their own. The team that laced up their kicks the quickest won.

&uot;This was the first fun drill we’ve had in a while,&uot; said West, who was named Davey Whitney’s successor as the Alcorn men’s basketball coach in April, of the relay. &uot;It’s been a good week. A hot week, but great. We’ve been fundamentally sound the whole week, with a lot of fun in it.&uot;

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More than 80 boys from grades 1-8 put on a show under the watchful eye of West during the morning session and the same was repeated in the afternoon with the girls’ camp, as parents took their seats in the bleachers to see what their sons and daughters had been up to all week.

The consensus favorite drill among many campers was apparently the jump-stop.

&uot;You have to dribble the ball and do a jump stop when you get to the cone,&uot; said 9-year-old Teddy Johnson.

Michael Iles, 7, said he’ll remember, &uot;the jump start, around-the-world and the zigzag. I liked shooting a lot.&uot;

As camp came to a bittersweet end, West could still be found working hard. With glasses hanging on the bridge of his nose, he scrambled to get every camper outfitted in a &uot;MS-LOU B-BALL CAMP&uot; t-shirt designed by his daughter Taylor, 14.

&uot;Wilbert Whitney and the Natchez Recreation staff have been the best,&uot; West said. &uot;He has done so much for the youth in Natchez.

&uot;He’s really allowed me to keep this going and build on for several days what he develops year-round. Without him none of this would’ve been possible.&uot;

West freely admits the camp could also not have gone off without a hitch double duty with West, both acting as campers when they were younger.

&uot;They both came up through the camp, and they know what this camp is about as well as anybody,&uot; West said of the pair. &uot;I’ve got a couple of my great-nephews here this year, which is reminding me how old I’m getting.&uot;

West said the camps’ numbers aren’t as high as the past, and he hopes future children will attend not only for the basketball fundamentals, but the spiritual side West and his staff can get across.

However, campers keep coming back for other reasons.

&uot;We always had snacks exercise every day,&uot; said Lavonta Allen, 9, who was partial to Sprite Remix and Baby Ruths. &uot;They taught me a lot of good stuff and how to be a better person.&uot;

Andrew Carter, 9, who was making is second tour of duty at West’s camp this week, enjoyed seeing some of his friends from last year’s camp.

&uot;I didn’t like having to get up early every morning, but once I got here each day I enjoyed the camp,&uot; said Gary Stewart, 11.

Andy Lucas, 12, was on a team that went 3-0 in games, but he enjoyed the &uot;Hot Shot&uot; drill the most. Hot Shot is an individual competition where competitors see how many points they can score in a minute.

A layup is worth one point, free throws are five points, 3-pointers 10 and other shots around the court designated values.

&uot;If you shoot at all the spots on the court, even if you miss, there is a 10-point bonus,&uot; Lucas said. &uot;It was a lot of work, but a lot of fun.&uot;

When you come to West’s camp, expect to work, he said. But with results such as Ridley, Ellis and Brown, don’t argue.

&uot;If you go back and look at the success of the Natchez and Fayette teams; the Trinitys, Natchez Middles and the Huntington junior varsity this past year &045; all these kids came through the camp,&uot; West said.