Players reunite for Blue Star camp
Published 6:25 pm Thursday, July 19, 2018
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
It was a Granger reunion.
The Blue Star Basketball Camp was held this week at the Mike Daniel Recreation Center, with dozens of boys and girls participating.
The camp was led by LaGrange boys’ head coach Mark Veal, and he recruited a number of his former players to help out.
Among that group were former LaGrange standouts Derieko Smith, Gabe Duckett, Danterrius Bray and Alex Dantzler, all of whom are playing college basketball.
Also helping out were Bo Russell and Daz Williams, seniors on last season’s team who are about to begin their college journeys.
“It’s fun. It brings back memories, just being with the guys again,” said Duckett, who is heading into his sophomore season at Greenville University in Illinois. “I don’t get to see them as much anymore. It’s a good time. I like coaching kids. It’s something I love to do.”
Smith, who will be playing at Young Harris this season, takes inspiration from being around the young campers.
“This means a lot,” Smith said. “A lot of the younger kids know me. It makes me happy to come to a gym and a lot of them know me, and I get to play around with them, and have fun. They do a lot for me. They motivate me a lot.”
The camp, which has been a fixture in the community for decades, began on Monday and wrapped up on Thursday.
The campers work on their basketball skills, and they also get life advice from a variety of speakers.
On the camp’s final day, three men with close ties to LaGrange High spoke.
Steve Pardue, the former LaGrange High head coach who led the football team to three state championships, was the day’s first speaker.
Mike Pauley, who was LaGrange’s boys’ basketball coach for 20 years before becoming the school’s athletics director, also spoke, as did Thomas Crocker, a long-time assistant football at LaGrange High.
Crocker offered three tips to the campers he believes will serve them well.
“Number one, you’ve got to have fun,” Crocker said. “Sports are fun. If you’re not having fun, you need to find something else to do. You’ve got to have fun when you play.”
Secondly, Crocker said “everything you do, always do your best. You compete as hard as you can at everything you do.”
Crocker’s third piece of advice was “you’ve got to be a great teammate. You want to be successful in sports, you can’t do it by yourself.”
Veal has been a part of the camp for nearly 15 years. He was an assistant coach at LaGrange for a decade, and he’s been LaGrange’s head coach since the 2015-2016 season.
“LaGrange basketball just means so much, and I couldn’t imagine my life without it,” Veal said.