COLUMBIA — Participants in the basketball camp lined up on the baseline. A coach yelled instructions from the middle of the court.
“Listen up, cuz if you don’t do this right, you’ll be conditioning until 4:45!”
After explaining the drill, the coach blew her whistle. Teammates cheered as the players rushed from the baseline. They sped down the court and in a matter of seconds reached the other baseline, and suddenly threw themselves onto the ground.
For this camp, one for wheelchair basketball players, practicing getting off the ground by themselves while still in their wheelchairs is important.
This was the second-annual wheelchair basketball camp led by the Missouri wheelchair basketball players and their coach, Ron Lykins. The camp started Sunday and runs through Thursday at the MU Student Recreation Complex.
“Our main goal here is obviously to make them better basketball players,” Lykins said. “But it’s also an opportunity for them to learn more about being independent and confident. For a lot of these kids, it's one of the few times they live completely away from their parents so they learn a lot in addition to basketball.”
The camp has players from all over the country, ranging in skills and age. While some are just beginning, others are more experienced and have played internationally.
Drills, scrimmages and practices are held all day during the camp. Lykins said the camp focused on individual fundamentals, like shooting and ball-handling, as well as team concepts, like pick-and-rolls and defense.
The camp also provides a recruiting opportunity for the Missouri wheelchair basketball team. Two camp members from Minnesota, Joe Dixon and Robert Doyle, said they plan to attend MU next year and play for the Tigers.
Dixon and Doyle played on the same junior wheelchair basketball team, winning three national championships and a gold medal in the Australian Youth Paralympic Games.
Lykins estimated there are only 10 or 12 camps like this nationwide despite the huge demand for them.
“So many kids want to play, but there are only a handful of these camps," he said. "Able-bodied kids have all sorts of camps out there for them, but there aren’t as many opportunities for these kids.”