NAU’s athletic department again has had a successful summer camp season — even without the Cardinals.
The 2013 season featured the Lumberjacks men’s basketball coaches clinic, a women’s basketball elite camp and a volleyball skill camp.
Head coaches Jack Murphy (men’s basketball), Sue Darling (women’s basketball) and Ken Murphy, the first-year volleyball mentor, all said the camps were very successful.
WOMEN’S BASKETBALL ELITE CAMP
Darling and her staff ended the summer camp season with a one-day elite camp for young women who are interested in playing college basketball.
Darling said the Lumberjacks staff tries to keep the camp small, but still had great numbers.
“We were thinking that we could get 25 or 30 girls here and we had 36 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.,” Darling said.
For the players, the camp is a good chance to see the NAU campus, experience being coached by a Division I staff and pick up a few skills to help them in their high school campaigns.
“We work on the fundamentals and focus on shooting, passing, dribbling, rebounding and defense,” Darling said. “We run the camp like a training camp and teach them a little bit of our offense to see how they pick that up. It looked pretty good when we scrimmaged in the afternoon. The money’s worth it and it was a really fun and exciting time for all involved.”
Darling added that no player is going to make leaps and bounds of improvement in six hours, but that each player could pick up one or two things that will, over time, make her a better player.
“With the fundamentals we teach, they can take that and practice every day and get better that way,” Darling said.
Another big plus for players is the question and answer session at the end of the day. Darling said players were most interested in what college coaches are looking for and also asked for tips on how to get scholarships to play basketball and go to college.
“We were able to express to them what we look for in the players we recruit,” Darling said. “This elite camp is a chance for kids who don’t work with college coaches to do just that.”
And it’s not just the players who benefit. Darling and her staff had the chance to get potential recruits on the NAU campus. Darling said they can talk to kids on the phone all they want, but getting them on campus is a completely different level.
“For us, this is a chance to coach different kids in the state, to meet them and work with them, and it’s a good recruiting tool for out of state as well,” Darling said. “They were able to spend time on campus, they saw the Skydome and they were coached by my staff and I.”
MEN’S BASKETBALL COACHES CLINIC
Jack Murphy’s clinic was a little different in that it catered to coaches instead of players. With such big basketball names as Denver Nuggets head coach George Karl, Charlotte Bobcats head coach Mike Dunlap, University of Memphis head coach Josh Pastner and University of Arizona associate head coach James Whitford, the men’s basketball coaches clinic is a big draw for Arizona high school and junior college coaches.
“I think it’s important to bring coaches to Flagstaff who may not come here on a regular basis,” Murphy said. “The best way to teach high school coaches and junior college coaches coming here to learn the game is to get the greats of the game. Fortunately for me, I’ve been able to develop some great relationships over the years, and many of the coaches who come here are old acquaintances and great friends.”
All the speakers at the coaches clinic divulged as much of their basketball knowledge and coaching wiles as they were willing, and Murphy said it was a great chance for all the attending coaches — including himself and his staff — to pick up intricacies of the game that may have eluded them.
“They definitely get very in-depth and to the point where a coach could reshape their program,” Murphy said. “It’s very coach-to-coach and there is a lot of knowledge being shared. They’ll give the base and the foundations, and for a coach, the game is very simple and can only be reinvented so many times. But to get around each other and share that knowledge and learn makes for a great time.”
While getting these famous coaches to Flagstaff is one thing, teaching basketball to those who want to learn is the real goal, Murphy said.
“There might be a coach who comes to Flagstaff and takes away one new thing that he hadn’t thought of before,” he said. “It was the same thing for me when I started this whole thing last year. I wanted to get coaches to Flagstaff and get people excited about basketball. But in turn, selfishly, I wanted to learn a little bit from the people who were coming to talk. It’s exciting for us and for my staff to be able to learn as well.”
Murphy echoed Darling’s sentiment that the clinic really helps play into the Lumberjacks’ recruiting moxie.
“Having such high-caliber guys come to Flagstaff legitimizes what we’re doing. It shows not only my resume but the resumes of my staff,” he said. “Because it’s far-reaching, it shows we can help a young man develop both on the court and in the classroom. We have a great background and it shows by who’s showing up.”
VOLLEYBALL GRADES 5-12 SKILLS CAMP
First-year head coach Ken Murphy jumped head first into the NAU volleyball program, including running its summer camps.
The volleyball team hosted the first grades 5-12 skills camp with a team camp in between, and Murphy said it helped him acclimate into the program by immediately connecting with the community.
“I think first of all we want to serve the volleyball community and the community of Flagstaff,” Murphy said. “We make sure to connect with the young people who are interested in the sport who aspire to play and make sure they stay involved in it.”
Murphy also said the camps were a good chance for NAU to get a look at prospective players for the future of the program.
“We also use the camps for recruiting,” he said. “We’re looking at the older kids, especially the ones who are interested in playing for our program. We like to have them come up and see how we coach and see what it’s like to be on campus, and they also get to see the facilities and the university.”
The volleyball camp finale was a chance for the players to experience the high level of training the NAU volleyball team endures and to also live a little bit of the college volleyball athlete lifestyle.
Participants stayed in the dorms during the three-day camp and were mentored by current NAU volleyball team members.
“My players serve as good role models and show what it takes to play the sport as well as how to conduct themselves,” Murphy said.
Murphy added the players can experience the camp and go home with one or two skills to work on to improve in their high school careers.
“In a small camp like this, we give them a taste of college skills,” he said. “We also put them in real team situations to challenge them and they get to see what it’s like to be successful and be a high-level player.”
The first-year NAU coach said he was really impressed with northern Arizona volleyball.
“This was outstanding,” he said. “The number of commuter campers from local areas is really high, and in a town this size that’s really promising. There’s a really good connection between NAU and northern Arizona volleyball and I’m really impressed.”
NAU teams also conducted the following camps over the summer: Men’s basketball beat the heat and youth day; women’s basketball team camp; football’s Jerome Souers youth camp, Jerome Souers football individual high school camp; soccer girls spring ID camp, day camp, girls elite soccer camp, girls high school team camp; volleyball skills grades 5-12 camp and NAU team camp.
Bill Harris can be reached at email@example.com or 556-2251.