Lickliter teaches campers basketball basics, team unity

BY TRAVIS VARNER | JUNE 29, 2009 7:21 AM

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Kids small in stature but big in enthusiasm were in the Field House last week showcasing their skills at the annual Iowa youth basketball camp.

The campers, who are in grades second through eighth, participated in structured drills, shootarounds, knockout, and five-on-five competitions led by Hawkeye coaches, local high-school coaches, and former Hawkeye players. Introducing the game of basketball with emphasis on fundamentals and enjoyment were the camp’s main objectives.

Iowa head coach Todd Lickliter helped the kids increase their basketball knowledge. Surrounded by 150 eager ballplayers, he gave a stirring pep talk about the importance of trying one’s best and being a good teammate. All eyes were fixed on him during the speech, and the kids followed his every movement.

Lickliter related a story illustrating the greater effect team success has on people’s memories as opposed to individual achievements. He asked the kids who was the leading scorer in Division-I basketball last year; only three raised their hand (Davidson’s Stephen Curry). Lickliter then nodded and asked the campers who won the Division-I championship last year. All immediately raised their hands.

Lickliter said he enjoyed having the campers at the UI.

“It’s just fun to have them on campus, be able to work with them, and give them a head start as they prepare to develop into their game,” he said.

He said the basic important skills of basketball must be stressed to all age groups, whether that’s an eager sixth grader or a starter for the Hawkeyes, so he spoke to the kids similar to the way he talks to his own players.

“I probably don’t talk to them a whole lot differently,”he said. “I talk to them about the same things — being a great teammate, working on your skills, and enjoying the game.”

Drill stations was one aspect of the camp that didn’t quite run so smoothly as the other activities. Many campers got frustrated and upset trying to learn skills new to them. But in the end, Iowa assistant coach Joel Cornette thinks it was a success.

“Stations is the part that everyone kind of struggles with, but it’s vital to camp,” he said. “It’s important for them to come in and learn something. You want them to go home to Mom and Dad and let them know they worked on a pivot, a crossover, or something like that.”

One thing the staff had to work diligently on was keeping the kids cool. With some of the hottest days of the year occurring last week, the coaches made sure the campers were well hydrated, and they gave them plenty of rest. Justin Wieck, the video coordinator for the basketball team, was in charge of the camp this year. He thinks everyone did a magnificent job with the heat and with teaching the campers the game.

“Once the kids get here, we just make sure the kids stay safe and make sure they have a good time,” he said.

Cornette agreed that the heat was tough, but the kids showed amazing will and energy. He has been doing the camp for nine years now and it never gets old for him. He enjoys seeing potential early Hawkeyes.

“The heat’s been pretty brutal … but I don’t think the campers feel like they missed a beat,” he said. “It’s always nice to get the young groups in here and start building grass-roots with fans and, hopefully, future players for the Hawkeyes.”

This week, another camp will take place with kids between fifth and 12th grades.

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