EVANSTON — The Evanston High School girls’ basketball program hosted its fifth annual K-8 basketball camp Monday and Tuesday, with 80 potential Lady Red Devils learning everything from proper shooting technique and ball handling to fundamentals of defense.
EHS head coach Jeremy Fessler, who was assisted by JV coach Dave Deru and freshman coach Dale Query, said having a gym full of basketball-crazy kids was a nice problem to have.
“It was the biggest camp that we’ve had so far,” Fessler said. “It’s nice to see that many young girls in the gym with the older girls, getting to meet them and interact with them. I was very happy with the turnout.”
The camp is offered to girls between the ages of kindergarten through eighth grade. The freshman, JV and varsity players from the EHS basketball program are also on hand to help run the camp, giving them the opportunity to introduce the culture of Lady Red Devils basketball to the program’s next generation, while having some fun in the process.
“The high school players really enjoy working with the younger kids, you see them giving piggy-back rides, hugs, high-fives,” Fessler said. “You hear the little girls say, ‘I’m gonna come next year, just for you.’ So it builds those relationships with the younger girls. I tell the girls who help with the camp, It’s hard work, but if you can get just one girl to say ‘I want to be just like you when I get older,’ you’ve done your job. So we emphasize lots of enthusiasm, lots of high-fives, lots of hugs. Just get those girls excited about basketball.”
Fessler explained there are a lot of activities that compete with basketball for the participation of elementary-age and middle school kids; the camp acts as an introduction to the sport. The goals of the camp are to build a relationship between the high school girls and their younger counterparts, as well as serve as a fundraiser for the EHS program.
“The camp is a fundraiser that helps us provide meals for the girls on all of our road trips during the year,” he said. “It’s really a great event, because it’s hitting those two spots [building interest and fund-raising] we sorely need.”
Fessler said he’d also like to see the elementary kids participate in Junior Jazz basketball, which they can join beginning in the third grade.
“Right now, we have about 48 kids in our middle school program between the two middle schools, and only eight of them have played Junior Jazz, which is the only real type of organized basketball for the young kids,” Fessler said. “They can start playing in the third grade, so we’re missing the boat on that.That’s what we hope to do with these camps, spark interest in those girls that maybe hadn’t thought of playing basketball yet.”
Fessler relies heavily on his assistant coaches to help make the camp an enjoyable experience; judging from the looks on the campers’ faces, that mission was accomplished.
“Coach Deru and Coach Query are great with the kids,” Fessler said. “They all have their little parts where they teach a session of the camp, then I send one to work with the little kids, and the other works with the older kids. They put a lot of time and effort into the program, so I appreciate everything they do.”
Fessler also wanted to express his appreciation for booster mom Jowell Deru for her assistance, as well.
“She was with me last year, and she’s with me again this year,” he said. “She knows exactly what we’re doing and she donates her time and gets all the fliers made and handed out to the elementary, gets the candy and the Gatorade. She does a fantastic job.”
The Lady Red Devils officially begin practice on Monday, with workouts scheduled for 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Monday and Tuesday; they’ll have the rest of the week off for Thanksgiving break.