It’s been more than a decade since Chris Turner began the Brunswick Basketball Basics: Camp for Champs, and this week has proven it’s more popular than ever.
More than 70 campers were in attendance when the 11th edition of the event tipped off Monday.
“This is our biggest turnout, and we’re real grateful for that,” the Pirates’ said boys basketball coach Tuesday afternoon. “We’re thankful that the kids want to be here and their parents want to send them here. That’s a good thing for our program to get 70 kids out. It hasn’t always been that way.
“When we first started, we probably didn’t have but 20 kids, so the camp is continuously growing and we hope it keeps doing that.”
Turner’s resume at Brunswick speaks for itself with a state championship, another finals appearance, a Final Four, an Elite 8, and five region titles under his belt since 2012.
His success for the Pirates has earned Turner a reputation for developing skillful players, and the Camp for Champs is the first opportunity for boys and girls from grades 2-12 to receive hands-on training from the Brunswick staff, including the man himself.
“We hope that, getting them early, we can teach them where they don’t have too many bad habits,” Turner said. “How to shoot a ball correctly, how to be in triple threat correctly. It’s just different little things, how to pass the ball correctly.
“A lot of kids struggle with fundamentals, and the sooner we can get them into camp, the sooner we can teach them how to step in with the correct foot, how to pass the ball correctly, how to play correct defense, spacing.”
The camp’s itinerary begins with various stations that work to teach players the fundamentals of the game.
Campers rotated through seven 12-minute stations that not only hone the skills they’ll need to play competitive basketball in the future, but as the dodge ball station can attest, also allows the kids to have fun.
It makes for a delicate balance, but one that pays dividends after lunch when the campers are split into teams for some 5-on-5.
“We try to make it fun for the kids, but we also try to teach them how to play,” Turner said. “Like right now, that we’re playing in here with some of our older kids, we’re looking to see if any of these kids can come play for us.
“We try to have fun, but we also try to give all of our knowledge, as far as the game, to the kids, especially in the morning with the fundamental stations, and then be able to tie it into being able to play a 5-on-5 game.”
Those 5-on-5 scrimmages are the best part of the camp, according to 7-year-old Isaac Butler — the brother of Brunswick rising junior guard Izaiah Butler.
The younger Butler took the early lessons to heart.
“I learned that when I miss my layups, I’ve got to put them back up,” Butler said. “If I miss two, I pass it to somebody. Then if I make another one, I just go down court and I get somebody and block somebody.”
A desire to improve on the court over the summer led Cedric King, a 13-year-old that plays basketball for Jane Macon Middle School, to attending the camp for the first time this year, and he’s already seen results.
Citing the drills as his favorite part of the camp, along with Turner’s willingness to allow some campers to play up in age group, King has made noticeable strides over the first half of the four-day event.
“I’ve totally gotten better over the days,” King said. “Yesterday, I didn’t do as good as I did today. Getting experience to know how these kids play. Yesterday, I kind of learned that, took it in, and used it.”
The 14-year-old Riyon Rankin also made an impression on Turner over the final hour of the camp session when the older campers trekked over to the old Brunswick High gym to run a couple of full court games.
Turner had the players cutting and passing in a five-out offense or, if the team had a capable big man, running the pick and roll while maintaining spacing on the perimeter.
Rankin, who was also attending camp for the first time, learned teamwork from the scrimmages, as well as the importance of defense.
“If you don’t play defense, you’re going to lose the game,” Rankin said.
Although Rankin has yet to play organized basketball, he showed off impressive athleticism and a natural feel for the game that led to him receiving an invite to practice with the varsity Pirates on Tuesday evening.
Although creating a fun environment conducive to learning is the goal for the Brunswick coaching staff at the camp, the stakes can still get pretty high.
Pizza is at stake.
“We do half-court shots and we get a pizza if we make the half-court shot,” Butler said. “If we miss it, we don’t get a pizza. That’s all I’ve got to say.”
Turner chortled before he remarked: “Kids love to shoot the half-court shot. It was actually Coach [Scott] Ginn’s deal.
“Coach Ginn came up with it, then he started having to buy some pizzas.”