Young players compete at camp
LAGRANGE – He loved the way they were competing.
The LaGrange College youth basketball camp wrapped up on Thursday, and at the close of the session, the players were divided into teams and they played each other in a mini-tournament.
The teams were formed on Monday, the first day of the camp, and they played each day, leading up to the championship games on Thursday.
As camp coordinator and LaGrange College associate head coach David McGreal looked on, he saw the players really getting after it, and he was happy to see that.
“Today is the championship game, and that’s why everybody is so intense,” McGreal said Thursday afternoon. “And I think it’s really cool that they are so competitive. These kids come, they want to get better, they want to compete, they want to win.”
Thursday’s games were part of what McGreal felt was a successful four-day camp that was held in LaGrange College’s Mariotti Gym.
“It’s been fun,” McGreal said. “It’s been rewarding for us to give back to the community, and give these kids an opportunity to come play.”
McGreal and LaGrange College assistant coach Jasen Jonus served as camp insructors, along with a handful of players on the men’s and womens’ team.
Among that group was former LaGrange Granger Justyn Olson, who is coming off a phenomenal junior season where he helped the Panthers reach the NCAA Division III national tournament for the third straight year.
Also helping out at the camp was LaGrange High graduate Andrea Heflin, who played sparingly as a freshman last season on the women’s team.
At the close of the camp on Thursday, McGreal handed out a handful of awards to the campers, and he also gave each of them a season ticket to the men’s games for the 2016-2017 season.
“We give every kid a season pass, so they can come to games,” McGreal said. “We saw quite a few of them this year that had never been to a game.”
The campers that are able to come to some games should be in for a treat, with the Panthers expected to enjoy another strong season.
“Win or lose, it’s going to be fun to watch,” McGreal said.
McGreal and head coach Kendal Wallace arrived at LaGrange College for the 2011-2012 season, and they have been a part of some special moments.
The Panthers were 12-15 in Wallace’s first season at the helm, and they went 12-12 in the 2012-2013 season.
Everything came together for the 2013-2014 season when the Panthers went 18-11 and won the first of two consecutive USA South tournament championships.
After going 17-12 in the 2014-2015 season while making it back-to-back conference championships, LaGrange went 20-9 last season and earned an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament.
It was the first time a LaGrange College team reached the 20-win mark since the 1992-1993 season.
While the Panthers will have to replace some talented seniors, including all-conference player Mark Wagner, they’ll be loaded next season, with Olson leading the way.
The former Granger was the Panthers’ leading scorer last season at 16.7 points per game.
Also returning are Alex Bonner and Drew Vanderbrook, who were each double-digit scorers last season.
“He’s the second-leading scorer in the whole conference,” McGreal said of Olson. “He’s been ranked nationally in certain categories like steals and free throws. I could see him averaging 20 next year. And then Bonner, I think he’ll be a key, and Vanderbrook finally started playing like we thought he was going to play toward the end of the year. Those will be the three horses.”
Next week, LaGrange College will host another camp that will be for high-school players.
The Panther Youth Basketball Elite Camp will be held Monday through Wednesday, and Jonus and McGreal will once again be the camp coordinators.
Reach Kevin Eckleberry at (706) 884-7311 or on Twitter @lagrangesports