You don’t have to twist any arms to get high school basketball players to go to an event such as the Impact Sports team camp at Mississippi University for Women.
“They love it,” Starkville Academy coach Colleen Roberts said. “Team camp’s their favorite. They play games all day, no instruction, just games. They go out there and compete again and again and again.”
And again and again, apparently.
“We’ve played somewhere around 30 games a day, and counting JV and varsity we’ve had 12, 13 teams,” said Billy Thomas, owner of Impact Sports and basketball coach and athletic director at Columbus Christian Academy.
Wearing a camp T-shirt from 2011, Thomas said Impact Sports has been running these camps for years.
“We have done it a long time,” he said. “Some of these guys are repeat schools from way back, but we always have somebody different coming here for the first time.”
Starkville Academy brought one of the largest contingents to the camp, with Roberts saying there were 40 players on four teams wearing blue and orange.
“They’ve got girls running around here everywhere,” Thomas said.
There were fewer girls on Wednesday than earlier in the week, as they were down to four teams at The W’s Pohl Gym — Roberts’ Volunteers, Thomas’ Rams, Calhoun Academy and Delta Academy.
Next week, when the boys will be on the MUW campus, the camp again will be crowded with players.
“Next week with the boys we have Neshoba Central coming on Wednesday, Caledonia’s Tuesday and Wednesday, we’ve got a bunch of other schools on Monday, Starkville Academy, Heritage, different schools,” Thomas said. “Calhoun will be back with their boys.”
But regardless of the number of teams in the gym, the scene on the courts was the same: full-court scrimmages with the four schools’ teams taking turns facing each other.
“A lot of these schools don’t play each other during the year, so it’s an opportunity to play some other competition,” Thomas said. “For me as a coach, I always know what I need to work on when we leave here.
“It’s kind of fun to see someone like Calhoun that came to their first team camp last year, and they weren’t very successful, but they’ve really improved,” Thomas said. “It’s exciting to see a team like that.”
Also of interest for the coaches was the chance to see their players go up against different competition.
Roberts said the camp was a chance to learn some things about her team, playing together for the first time since graduation.
“I’m looking to see who my leaders are and looking to see where our strengths and weaknesses are,” she said. “We’ve been taking notes on what we need to work on to get ready for next season.”
And while next season might be a long way off, the time to practice as a group at the moment is limited.
“As a team, we spend four to five weeks in the summer together,” Roberts said. “Then they take a week off for July 4 and then move on to fall sports.”
Thomas, who now coaches both varsity and both junior varsity teams at Columbus Christian, also will have a busy month.
“We’ll leave here, we’ll have the boys camp next week,” he said. “Then I’ll take the girls to the MRA camp the next week, then the boys to the MRA camp the following week.”
That kind of schedule makes it important to get the most out of each week.
“We got good experience here,” Roberts said. “A lot of the younger players haven’t played as much, and having four games a day against other people besides ourselves has given people the opportunity to get out there and compete.”