Blue Star Camp a hit

Published 5:17 pm Wednesday, July 19, 2017

By Kevin Eckleberry

LAGRANGE – It was a full house.

The Blue Star Basketball Camp is being held this week at the Mike Daniel Recreation Center, and it has been a healthy turnout each day, with around 60 boys and girls participating.

“This is the most kids I remember in my 15 years doing this,” LaGrange head coach Mark Veal said. “We’ve got a lot of kids here.”

The campers have plenty of coaches helping them out.

Among the instructors are Veal, his assistant coaches, girls’ head coach Stephen Tuck, as well as current and former LaGrange High players, some of whom are getting ready for a new college-basketball season.

“I’ve got other former players when they come back into town, they help because it’s a way to give back,” Veal said.

Veal also recruited some of his current players to serve as instructors, including seniors Bo Russell, Jalen Waton and Jay Benton who were a part of last season’s team that won a third consecutive region championship and made it to the elite eight of the state tournament.

“It’s a lot of fun,” Benton said. “You like to see how enthusiastic they are about every little thing. Rebound drills are not fun for me, but they just loved it. It’s simple stuff they loved. It makes me want to come out here and work with them.”

Benton added that the young campers “keep us on our toes.”

Mike Hardy, a former LaGrange High great, said the campers “have so much energy, you have to keep up with them. And the younger ones, they’re a handful, so you have to really sit down with them and teach them.”

Bernard Brooks, a former LaGrange standout who is now an assistant coach at the school, has taken to his role as a camp instructor.

Brooks has brought some of his training techniques to the camp.

During one drill, the campers wear goggles that force them to keep their eyes up while they’re dribbling.

“We wanted to try some different stuff,” Brooks said. “It’s something I do when I train my kids for middle school, or training on the side. I do it a lot with my kids. It’s a lot of stuff I’ve been learning from different coaches and different trainers. They really enjoy it.”

Veal said Brooks “has really embraced this.”

“I told him to bring out some of the tricks of the trade we use with player development,” Veal added. “And it was great. He did a good job with it.”

Kerun Hill, another former Granger who is on staff at the school, is also helping out.“

“Bernard, and Kerun, basketball is something they have a great passion about,” Veal said. “A lot of people in the community know them.”

Brooks said he’s trying to provide the campers with something he didn’t have when he was a young player.

“One thing about it, when I was younger, I never had anybody work with me on my skill work,” Brooks said. “A lot of stuff is just me having the passion to help someone in need. I figured if I’d known then stuff I know now when I was their age, the sky would have been the limit.”

The camp continues through Thursday, and Veal is bringing in special guests throughout the week to spend time with the young players.

On the camp’s opening day, former Georgia Bulldog J.J. Frazier was a guest speaker.

Also on Monday, long-time LaGrange coach and current athletic director Mike Pauley spoke to the campers, as did LaGrange baseball coach David Smart.

“It was three different topics and messages,” Veal said. “(On Tuesday), I had current players and past players. Tomorrow, I’ve got Garfield Duckett and coach (Dialleo) Burks coming up. And Thursday will probably be the current players in college come talk to them.”

LaGrange High girls’ coach Stephen Tuck said it’s great to have the former Grangers spending time with the campers.

“They’ve been in the program, and they’re able to relate to the kids,” Tuck said.

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