COLUMBIA — The success of the Missouri men's basketball team last season appeared this summer in the form of an increased number of participants at its most recent basketball camp, which ended Wednesday.
As opposed to other camps in the region, MU has not seen a decline in campers because of the economy. Enrollment at other camps has dropped about 10-15 percent according to Jeff Daniels, MU's director of basketball operations. While exact figures were not available, Daniels said MU had the largest group he had seen during his three seasons at the university.
Kansas City Youth Camp: July 11-12
Columbia Youth Camp: July 13-14
Columbia Youth Camp: July 16-17
Individual Camp: July 26-29
“It’s a culmination of how the team did this year and our improved facilities,” Daniels said. “Those two things working together helped us increase the visibility and excitement around our program.”
The university offers four types of camps. The team camp is a tournament style camp encompassing different high school teams from Missouri and the region. Individual camp involves drills and team play focusing on fundamentals. Youth camps strive to teach young players the basics of the game, and the elite camp is an advanced skills camp. While it used to be invitation only, recent NCAA mandates require that it is open to everyone.
“The elite camp is an opportunity to see some young men from Missouri we haven’t been exposed to yet, that we get to see and work with,” Daniels said.
No matter the type of camp, fundamentals are at the core. While MU coach Mike Anderson and basketball staff run a structured camp, the fun in fundamentals is stressed. One way they accomplish this is by exposing current Tigers players to the campers. Players can show up and shoot with campers or coach one of the teams. Anderson wants his players to be involved with the campers, according to Daniels.
“When our first individual camp ended on Wednesday, DeMarre Carroll showed up to hand out the awards,” Daniels said. “We didn’t even know if he was going to show up, but he did, and the kids went crazy. Opportunities like that give the kids a chance to question and interact with college players to get an idea of what it takes to play college basketball.”
In addition to teaching fundamentals, these camps aim to introduce young athletes to the university. While many will not go on to be part of the basketball program, camps still provide a sneak peak into life at MU.
“I’ve never been here before, but I definitely want to come back,” said Michael Nothstine, 13, of Sedalia. “The new arena is really cool.”
Camps also offer athletes a chance to showcase their skills. Basketball staff first got a look at Mike Dixon at a team camp two summers ago. Dixon, a point guard from Lee’s Summit, signed a letter of intent to play for the Tigers last November. He will join his AAU teammates Marcus Denmon and Steve Moore.
In addition to the success of last season, Daniels credited Missouri high school coaches with the camps' expansion. Many coaches have entered their teams in the team camp for the past 15 to 20 years. Word spreads fast in the coach's circle about quality camps and Daniels said he appreciates their promotion.
“They play a huge part. The loyalty of these coaches to this camp means a lot," Daniels said. "We just need to keep working to ensure they keep coming back.”
In the future, that means attracting as many young players and teams as possible. The best use of scheduling and facility space will allow the university to accommodate an increasing number of campers. Recent upgrades include using certified officials and scorekeepers to regulate games instead of volunteers, giving the games a more genuine feel.
The basketball program is not the only benefactor of the increased numbers. Columbia benefits from the higher number of campers visiting the community.
“Not every camper is from Columbia. Their parents have to stay and eat somewhere while they are here. There is a definite economic benefit to the community,” Daniels said.