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Sweating it out at basketball camp

WESSON — Small streams of sweat ran down my cheeks. My shirtand pants were starting to show damp shades of perspiration.

I was just a spectator in the old Wesson High School gymnasiumTuesday afternoon. My condition was cool, compared to thesweat-soaked basketball players who ran up and down the floor.

It was just another game in the Copiah-Lincoln Community CollegeGirls Basketball Team Camp. Another game meant it was one of over200 abbreviated games taking place during the 3-day camp.

For sure, summer sports camps are a popular item. Co-Lin’s campattracted 24 high schools from Mississippi and Louisiana. Many ofthe coaches brought along their junior varsity teams.

Co-Lin’s team camp is 11 years old and growing. According toCo-Lin athletic director and women’s basketball coach Gwyn Young,around 300 girls participated in this week’s camp.

Asked about the camp’s rising success, Young gazed at his whiteNike shoes and pointed to a combination of positives. There arefive basketball courts available. Two games can be playedsimultaneously in Mullen Gymnasium. At last, the old Co-Lin gym isair-conditioned, too; along with the new Wesson High gym.

Coaches place their teams in dormitory rooms, vacated by Co-Linstudents during the summer months. The cafeteria food is good andthe fellowship even better.

Players and coaches become better acquainted. Coaches work ontheir team’s weaknesses. High school graduation can lead to a majoroverhaul.

“We have game situations with some good competition,” saidYoung. “We use district officials for most of the games.”

Young receives help from Co-Lin men’s basketball coach DennisSims and volunteer assistant Bill “Goose” McGuire. Also present areseveral Co-Lin players to help run the scoreboards and provide someextra officiating.

“We had a few good teams who started coming several years ago,”said Young. “If they enjoy it, they spread the word.”

This year, the participating schools are Brookhaven, BogueChitto, Loyd Star and West Lincoln out of Lincoln County. Also onhand are Wesson, Franklin County, Jefferson County, Copiah Academy,Forest Hill, Hancock, Hattiesburg, Natchez, Oak Grove, Pearl RiverCentral, Pelahatchie and Tylertown.

From Louisiana are Ponchatoula, Pearl River, Mandeville,Franklinton, Denham Springs, Bowling Green and Cabrini. Add 200games to the mix and you have a basketball heaven.

McGuire applied some tape to the jammed finger of a CopiahAcademy player during a break for lunch. “You get a lot of games inand they treat you right.”

He has been working the Co-Lin camp for 11 years. McGuire has abusy summer. He will work the University of Iowa camp for two weekslater this summer. He’s been at it for 17 years.

“I really enjoy it,” said McGuire. “Camps are good for the kidsand the coaches.”

Co-Lin has a full-time, certified athletic trainer on staff inMatt McClain. During camp week, he stays extra busy taking care ofthe hurts. Foot blisters and sprains are the main problems, mixedin with pulled muscles and floor burns.

Loyd Star coach Jan Delaughter watched her Lady Hornets beatJefferson County in the old Co-Lin gym. Only recently removed fromthe high school fastpitch softball season, she was feeling theeffects of coaching two sports back-to-back.

“I’m tired,” Delaughter admitted. “We’ve played about 20 games.It allows our players more practice time and gives me a chance tolook at our team’s strengths and weaknesses; what we need to workon.”

Brookhaven coach Freda Craft directed her Lady Panthers to arunners-up finish in the Class 4A State Tournament last season. Shemust replace three starting guards.

All-state post players 6-2 Nikki Byrd and 6-1 Swayze Blackreturn, along with 6-foot center Whitley Shannon. Byrd currently issidelined by a back ailment.

Craft stood up during the entire game against Natchez. Sheleaned against the blue cinder blocks behind the bench and providedinstructions to her team in the sweltering gym. She frequentlysubstituted players, searching for the right combination.

“Talk to each other! Help out on defense!”

After an unsuccessful fast-break, Craft loudly critiques herteam. “We had three people on one person and we didn’t’ get theball in the goal.”

Obviously, Craft’s team has a large bull’s-eye on their jerseyseven if it isn’t visible. Natchez wins 31-26 and the Lady Bulldogscelebrate.

“I know it doesn’t mean nothing but it’s something special tous,” crows one Natchez player, savoring the win.

Craft shows obvious disappointment, even though it’s just a campgame, witnessed by a few parents. She realizes the real season willbe here soon and expectations will be sky-high.

“Hopefully, I can get in their heads and make them realize theyhave to play hard every game,” said Craft. “We can’t just show upand win.”

Rather than ride the bus back to the Co-Lin campus, Craft leadsthe team on a mile and one-quarter march through the afternoonheat. It gives them time to think about basketball and what isrequired to be successful.

Write to sports editor Tom Goetz, c/o The DAILY LEADER, P.O.BOX 551, Brookhaven, MS 39602 or e-mailsports@dailyleader.com