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Published: Wednesday, 7/30/2008

100 youths bolster skills at Pistons' hoops camp at Owens College

BY MARK MONROE
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Waiting their turn to take the floor are, from left, Brad Fischer, 13, of Toledo; Jake Hartbarger, 13, of Waterville; Mike Kontak, 13, of Waterville; Seth Johnson, 13, of Perrysburg; Jake Blanchett, 13, of Monroe, and Brandon Kranz, 13, of Toledo. Waiting their turn to take the floor are, from left, Brad Fischer, 13, of Toledo; Jake Hartbarger, 13, of Waterville; Mike Kontak, 13, of Waterville; Seth Johnson, 13, of Perrysburg; Jake Blanchett, 13, of Monroe, and Brandon Kranz, 13, of Toledo.
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For four days last week, young basketball players from the area had the chance to put on a Detroit Pistons jersey and learn how to shoot like Tayshaun Prince and Richard "Rip" Hamilton.

About 100 youngsters participated in the Detroit Pistons Youth Basketball Camp at Owens Community College July 21-24.

Steve Moreland, who is the director of basketball training camps and clinics for the Pistons, conducts 16 youth camps across Michigan during the summer.

The camp in Perrysburg Township, which is in its eighth year, is the only one held in Ohio.

"It means a lot to these kids," Moreland said. "They get to put these red, white, and blue jerseys on and they all want to play like a Piston. It's a big-time camp."

Drew Melick, right, 10, of Sylvania dribbles around Ian Brolley, 10, of Erlanger, Ky., during the Detroit Pistons basketball camp at Owens Community College in Perrysburg Township. Drew Melick, right, 10, of Sylvania dribbles around Ian Brolley, 10, of Erlanger, Ky., during the Detroit Pistons basketball camp at Owens Community College in Perrysburg Township.
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Toledoan Nick Mitchell, 13, said the camp was a good experience. It was the second year he attended.

"I liked it enough to come back," he said. "You meet different players with different skill levels. You get to play with people who make you better."

More than 22,000 kids have attended the camps over the past 11 years.

The camps are run by coaches from the professional, college, and high school levels. Moreland said 100 boys and girls in grades 1 though 11 participated last week.

Campers paid $179 to attend and in exchange they received a red, white, and blue basketball and a jersey, as well as a ticket to a Pistons game next season. More importantly, the young players learned about ball handling, passing, shooting, defending, and rebounding.

Players were grouped according to age and skill level for the daily, four-hour camp.

"These kids form lifelong friendships at the camp," Moreland said. "Most come back every year."

Ryan Kwiatkowski, a 13-year-old from Maumee, said his cousins urged him to attend.

"They said it was a fun camp," he said. "They said they played a lot of games and did a lot of fun drills."

Ryan, who will be an eighth grader at Anthony Wayne Junior High, said he played about five to six games per day at the camp.

He added that he made his junior high team last year. "My goal this year is to start," he said.

Ryan said the camp has allowed him to get closer to that goal by helping his ball-handling skills.

Young Mitchell, who will be an eighth grader at Lial Catholic School in Whitehouse, said he is a shooting guard.

"Coach Steve is a shooting coach for the Pistons," he said. "Last year he brought in his [championship] ring."

Sydney Petty, who was one of the taller girls at the camp, said she attended to improve her overall skills. The 11-year-old Toledoan, who will be a fifth grader at Trinity Lutheran School, said she was having "a really fun time."

"I ve learned how to dribble and shoot," she said. "I m trying to get on my school team and I hope I get better when I go into the older grades."

Sydney said she definitely will come back next summer.

"I m making more baskets now," she said.

At the end of one session last week, a group of older kids played a quick five-minute game in front of all the campers. They were split into Blue and White teams and each had their own cheering section.

After the White team lost, they were forced to do a few pushups.

Chinedu Nwosu, who was one of the standouts in the post-practice game, said he learned about the camp on the Internet. The 12-year-old, who is going into the fifth grade at Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central, said he learned some new moves.

"I learned how to dribble and shoot better," he said. "I want to be a better ball handler. I think my shooting has improved."

Jeff Albright, Chinedu s classmate at Monroe SMCC, said it was "a cool experience.

"I play center and it s been fun to play against people I don t know," the 13-year-old said. "Coach Steve is a good coach. He knows how to teach you how to shoot and dribble."

Colin Angle, one of 15 instructors, said it was his third year helping run the camp. Most of the instructors are college players. Angle, who is from Flint, Mich., said he earned a scholarship to Principia College in St. Louis. He attended the camp while he was growing up.

"I ve known Coach Steve all of my life," Angle said. "He helped make me an all-league and all-district player."

Angle said the instructors try to build the campers skills while also keeping it fun.

"We want them to improve their fundamentals," he said. "We teach them drills that they can take with them and do at home. We tell them what they have to improve on and they can do it on their driveway at home."

The camp has been held in the Toledo area for 11 years. It was first held at the Steve Mix Academy in Maumee and then at Springfield High School.

"The great thing about this area is that the people are so passionate about basketball," Moreland said. "It sits between the Pistons and Cavaliers markets and we have some Cavs fans that come here.

"We try to convince them to become Pistons fans," he joked.

Moreland said the kids in Ohio seem to have a better grasp of the fundamentals.

"You can tell they play for their school teams or travel teams," he said. "The talent level is high here and the parental commitment is unbelievable."

Moreland said the camp has two main objectives. He said most kids don t get a chance to see the Pistons play in person, so he brings the team and its values to the kids.

Another objective is to instill good life skills, he said. He preaches to the kids to be on time, be good listeners, to work hard, and to be good people.

"Those are our four team rules," Moreland said.

He also developed his own pyramid of success based on one established by legendary coach John Wooden. Moreland hands out posters with his pyramid featuring Pistons players.

"Above all this is supposed to be fun," he said.

Former Piston Greg Kelser, who starred at Michigan State, was a guest speaker at last week s camp.

"His message was to get a good education," Moreland said. "It s okay for these kids to dream about playing in the NBA. But most won t play in college."

Moreland, who played college basketball at Northwood University, isn t the only member his family to be involved in the came.

His sons Tyler and Shane also are instructors who have gone through the camp. Tyler is playing at Davenport College. Shane, who will be a senior at Flint Powers Catholic High School, is being recruited by Miami of Ohio, Bowling Green State University, and Western Michigan.

Michael Rickard, athletic director oat Owens, said his eight-year-old son Austin has participated in the camp for the last three years.

"It provides an opportunity to area kids to learn from the pros," Rickard said. "And it s not just about basketball, it s a life-learning experience."

Rickard said he has seen the kids esteem grow each day of the camp.

"From a parent standpoint, you have to carefully choose what camp to send your kid to and we chose this one," Rickard said. "As long as they keep coming back, we ll keep coming back."

Contact Mark Monroe at: mmonroe@theblade.com or 419-304-4760.



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