Cavalier Elite camp offers free instruction
It's new idea and it still has some kinks to work out, but the inaugural Cavalier Elite Basketball Camp was nothing short of a success.
Every Thursday and Saturday throughout the month of June at East Rutherford High School, the gym was full of 30-50 young basketball players taking instruction from Cavalier coaches and players. Best of all, it was free.
Aaron Simmons created the idea and brought it to East Rutherford head basketball coach Brad Levine.
"Mr. Simmons is the backbone of this idea. I agreed to it as long as we didn't charge the kids one penny," LeVine said. "We got sponsors for the shirts and donations but we've provided everything."
"We want to give these kids don't necessarily have the chance to go to a Carolina camp or Gardner-Webb or wherever where it costs $300-$400," LeVine added. "We just want them to learn a few little skills because most of them haven't been taught anything."
Watching the camp, there are players rising into fifth grade and others preparing for their freshman year of high school, their skill levels equally vary.
"Some of these kids could hardly dribble a basketball the first day," LeVine said. "It's been unbelievable the improvement in these kids. It's remarkable what young kids can do if you just spend a little time with them.
The camps offers a chance for young players to become better, but also allows great basketball players to become better citizens and people.
"I've had just about as many of my own kids here too helping out. I want to make that more open to the county too and have players from other schools come out because that's community service hours that they can get," LeVine said. "We're trying to do a lot of things here. Not only do we want to teach kids some skills but we want the older players to have some responsibility and teach a little bit."
One of the more noticeable presences in the gym is former Cavalier basketball player and recent East Rutherford graduate Benjamin Beckett.
"Ben Beckett is a prime example of what I want the camp to do," LeVine said. "He's tremendous with kids. He's graduated so he's not getting anything for this and he's been to every one one of them."
At the onset of a day's work, the coaches show the kids proper stretching and run through some drills that may make you raise an eyebrow. After stretching in the middle of the court the player slap basketballs and practice swinging it around their bodies, their heads and behind their knees.
"We call those hand skills. They're all hand-eye coordination drills. We do the same thing with the high school boys," LeVine said. "We try to show them things they can carry home, all they need is a ball."
Sing-ups were held at the end of the school year at various schools and as the weeks went on, the faces in the gym changed, but the instruction didn't. In the coming years, the event plans to grow.
"I'd like to get the other high school coaches involved next year. This is not for East Rutherford. This is for Rutherford County," LeVine said. "Next year we will publicize it more because I want kids from all over the county to be able to come."
Those in charge have a few ideas in mind to help develop the camp, such as a more central venue or even a venue rotation between the high schools.
"All that's important to me is that it stays as a free camp," LeVine said. "Ideally you don't want to centralize your kids because of the location. Maybe we could rotate sites yearly. This is just the first run and it will get better and better."