Youth hoops camps underway in Wood County

WILLIAMSTOWN – This week should provide young basketball players in the area a chance to sharpen their skills as a pair of youth camps are being hosted in Wood County.

Dan Ellis is holding his annual “Total Package” camp at Wood County Christian School, where he is the boys varsity head coach, this week. Less than a mile away at Williamstown High School, Lady Yellowjackets head coach Fred Sauro is overseeing a camp as well. For Sauro, it is the 25th straight year the camp has taken place.

“We started this camp in 1990 on the outdoor courts right out there,” Sauro said, pointing to the outside of the high school where outdoor courts used to lie.

“We feel like we’ve given a lot of kids their start, maybe their first basketball experience.”

Sauro, along with colleagues Howard Rowsey, Chris Nelson, Ray Gutierrez and Jim Naab, was asked to hold the camp for the first time 25 years ago. At the time, Sauro had no idea what kind of future the camp would have and credited a quality staff for the success.

“We have a very good staff,” Sauro said. Along with being introduced to some of the basic fundamentals of basketball, campers have the opportunity to play in front of some of Williamstown’s biggest hoops stars from the past that volunteer to help out.

“To get the high school kids to come in and help out is fabulous. The kids know who they are and that’s great. But we’ve got five people on the 1,000 point-scorer list and about four all-staters.”

Molly Kiger, Matt Kiger and Liz Flowers are among the names that have helped out over the years.

“We have a staff of accomplished people,” Sauro said. “I think they share with the kids the things they need to do to be successful.”

Over 100 kids are registered for Williamstown’s camp. The morning period featured younger kids (kindergarten-6th grade) while the older group (grades 7-9) was scheduled to attend camp in the afternoon.

The camp runs through Friday when awards will be handed out. While not every kid gets a trophy, Sauro said their will be plenty of opportunities for kids to earn recognition for their hard work.

Overall, Sauro is hoping kids leave the camp with a better sense of the offensive part of the game.

“We are trying to push offensive fundamentals,” Sauro said. “I’m a defensively-orientated coach. I truly believe that. But to make your team and to be successful in this game, you’ve got to have some offensive fundamentals. You have to have a little wiggle to your game. You have to know how to create shots, create space. You have to know how to handle the ball and shoot the ball.”

Over at Wood County Christian, Ellis also focuses on instructing the principles of the game.

“Some of the younger kids, we’re pretty much introducing the game of basketball to them,” Ellis said. “Teaching them some skills and understanding of the game.”

For the older players, it’s about “trying to continue to improve their fundamentals and understand that basketball takes teamwork,” Ellis said.

Each day opens up with different stations where players work on certain drills, such as ball handling and passing. By the end of each day, the kids get to test what they’ve learned in live game action, playing three-on-three and five-on-five exhibitions.

Ellis’ camp has been going on for over decade. He’s got 50 kids in camp this week. Tuesday was the second day and it will conclude on Thursday.