Fairbanks, Alaska...Land of the Midnight Sun...

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Monday afternoon...day after camp...

Okay, so this much I know: I'm intrigued by the travel opportunities that basketball has provided me on my journeys...I mean, I was in China in January, Vladivostok, Russia in February and now Fairbanks, Alaska in June...Wow...

I am here assisting a former Sonics player who is a very close friend of mine, Clemon Johnson...We've known one another through our association with the Sonics back in the day when I was an Assistant Coach on the bench with Bernie Bickerstaff ('86-'90)...Clemon is one of those uniquely talented ex-players, who has quietly gone about gaining the necessary experience and understanding as a basketball coach by taking himself to the "Top of the World", Fairbanks, Alaska, as Head Men's Basketball Coach of U of A, Fairbanks...

This will be Clemon's 2nd season in Fairbanks, and he is as excited as a proud Papa awaiting the "birth" of his 2 child in 5 months...He will have 8 new players on his squad, his recruits, and return only 3 lettermen from the season before...

Why am I here? Right now, we've just completed the Position Camp for the last 3 days on campus, and it went very well...We had around 16-17 players, boys, ages 13-17 and varied level of skills...some terrific, some not-so-good, but all possessing a willingness to want to be taught and learn something new about how to improve their skills and game...I am blessed because when we're on the court, the kids really come to life, eager to execute properly and most definitely getting "stronger" when they miss layups...That's because Coach Newell has a rule: "You miss your layups with no defender on you...What happens when you play in a game WITH a defender?...Right, you miss it worse!!"...The "reminders" I use to help them focus better on this mis-skill: pushups...5 for each layup missed...Yesterday, lil Oba, all 5'4" of him missed 8 layups during our drills...I slide up to him and ask him: "Oba, how many pushups do you have to do today?...He goes "I've got 40 coach and COUNTING..."...So I told him he has 2 hours to do his layups and he smiles a relief of salvation from having to do them all right then and there...So fast forward here, we're 5 mins. away from practice being over and we're finishing up and come together as a team and break...Oba comes up to me and thanks me for helping him and I acknowledge his gratitude and tell him to be sure to get his rest tonight...He said he will "after" he gets through doing his pushups: now it's over 60!! I tell him that he worked very hard today and that his effort more than made up for his missed layups, BUT he must work very hard NOT to miss as many tomorrow as he did today...He's so excited, one, because he doesn't have to do the pushups, and, two, because he knows that this ol coach "likes" him as a player, even though the ball is bigger than his face and an Alaskan Hound is longer than he is on all fours!! I love Summer Basketball Camps...the kids are wonderfully bright and excited for the daily event and usually there are 3-4 kids that just stand out in their personalities and application...They're usually the "Lil Caboose" that can't make it up the Hill who end up reminding me why I love to teach this game...Their eyes and eagerness to learn far surpass any disappointments and distractions the older players may cause me, because the lil fellers are trying so hard to do the drills the right way...God love them...what a treat to teach!!

Monday, June 9th...afternoon...Team Camp begins in 3 hours...looking forward to seeing the "talent" up here...Shucks, if I were a high school player playing soccer, basketball, football and/or baseball, I guarantee you I'd be outside until midnight every night playing, practicing, etc....I mean, think about it: outdoors with the sun shining until 1 in the morning!!?? YOU HAVE TO LOVE THAT ENVIRONMENT, and I would imagine that I'll be seeing some interesting play over the course of the week...Stay tooned, I'll fill y'all in the observations...Coach tom

 Update:  The local newspaper had a story announcing the clincs at http://newsminer.com/news/2008/jun/10/newell-slates-hoops-camp-all-coaches/

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