Under normal circumstances, Basha, Perry and Campo Verde high schools are rivals all within a few miles of each other.
But now, instead of competing against each other, the coaches of the schools’ varsity girls basketball programs are teaming up to try and develop the sport.
Basha’s Rich Meseroll, Perry’s Brock Kearsley and Campo Verde’s Brian Hutchins put their heads together to form the East Valley Basketball Academy, a basketball camp aimed predominantly at girls, to try and improve the sport.
Kearsley, whose son plays youth basketball, has become disillusioned with the way things were being done at the youth level.
“Throughout an eight-week season, he probably got four shots up, probably touched the ball two or three times a game,” he said. “The best player probably shoots 20-some times a game and dribbles up and down the floor most of the time. I’d say the ball is in their hands, the two best players, probably 60-70 percent of the time.
“Yeah, (his son) improved, but how can we make him improve more?” Kearsley said. “By getting the ball in his hands more. So that’s how we came up with this.”
So how does one get the ball in the players’ hands more? By reducing the number of players. Hutchins believes part of the problem lies in the five-on-five format that most youth and club programs use. Instead, East Valley Basketball Academy opted for a three-on-three model for its games, a method Hutchins hopes will allow younger players to develop the skills they learn in the camp while also having the space to put them to use.
“Three-on-three, there’s so much more space where they can see ‘OK, now there’s help coming, what decision do I make?’,” he said. “Where five-on-five, there’s not as much space, they don’t see the kid coming and all of a sudden, it’s not a decision-making thing it’s an ‘Oh my gosh, I’m just so overwhelmed,’ kind of thing.”
The camp, which will take place two days a week starting in late August to early September, will feature the three-on-three games one day a week, but the other day will be spent almost exclusively on skill development, be it shooting, dribbling, passing or some other facet.
The hope is the academy will allow attendees to focus on building their skills without the competitive pressure, time or financial strains of a club or American Athletic Union (AAU) team.
Meseroll says club and AAU teams don’t stress fundamentals as much because their focus is on installing plays and offenses and trying to win as many games as possible. That’s not the focus of East Valley Basketball Academy.
“With us, the skills will be there,” he said. “It’s not so much worrying about the other external pressures and costs of hotels and uniforms. This will be just to kind of build skills along and keep kids interested in the game.”
The East Valley Basketball Academy will cost between $40 and $60 and is open to fourth-, fifth- and sixth-grade boys and girls, seventh- and eighth-grade girls and ninth- through 12th-grade girls.
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