Bluder hosts elite basketball camp

BY CODY GREDELL | JUNE 15, 2011 7:20 AM

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In the humid Field House gym, a mob of the Midwest’s best female high-school basketball players shoot around with one another in preparation for the start of the 2011 Girls’ Elite Basketball Camp hosted by the Iowa women’s basketball team.

The camp’s participants have the opportunity to prove their skills to members of the Iowa women’s coaching staff, including head coach Lisa Bluder and associate head coach Jan Jensen. The campers were also instructed by high-school coaches from around the Midwest and both current and former Black and Gold players.

“We’re still evaluating talent here,” Bluder said. “We’re still trying to build [national] awareness of our basketball program.”

The camp is usually held in Carver-Hawkeye Arena and Iowa’s practice facilities, but it took place in the Field House this year because of the ongoing renovations at the arena. Bluder said she plans to return the two-day session to Carver-Hawkeye and the team’s new practice spaces next year, but current Iowa senior forward Kelly Krei said her goal wasn’t affected by the different scenery.

“It’s just a good opportunity to have a lot of good ball players together for two days and just have a really high level of basketball,” the Iowa City native said.

This camp is different from the team’s instructional camp, which will take place starting Thursday and is geared toward younger players. The Elite Camp is an invitational session and is designed for highly skilled players with varsity-level basketball experience. The camp’s participants came from all around the Midwest, including Illinois and Minnesota — there was even one player from Alabama who was scheduled to attend, but she was unable to make it.

The camp helps the coaches to evaluate talent and serves as a recruiting tool to keep the Iowa program in the minds of young players.

“These girls are still in high school,” Bluder said. “They’re usually starters for their varsity team, so it’s also more of a recruiting opportunity for us.”

Jensen agreed.

“Hopefully, the kids who come here want to grow up to become Hawkeye players,” the 12-year assistant said.

That plan appeared to be working on Tuesday. Among the camp’s participants were three of Iowa’s pledged recruits, including class of 2012 post player Nicole Smith from Rockton, Ill. The forward orally committed to the Hawkeyes on Sunday evening.

The players were able to work on such skills as passing and dribbling. They were also broken down by position and were able to take part in scrimmages against each other so that coaches could further evaluate talent.

Although the camp’s intent is that players can be observed by the coaches, Bluder said, she hopes the participants will take something away from the session.

“I think you can learn something from any camp you go to,” said the coach, who recently completed her 11th season at the Iowa helm. “If they can pick up one or two new things over the week [and] walk away from here with a better appreciation of Hawkeye women’s basketball, then I think it has been successful for us.”

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