Basketball: Camp leaves kids feeling Sky high
Emmie Boland,11, of Elmwood Park, works on skills at the camp. | Sun Times Media
Updated: August 27, 2012 6:06AM
RIVER GROVE — Chicago’s WNBA entry paid a visit to Guerin Prep as staffers from the Sky held a two-day camp in River Grove on July 16 and 17.
It was the first Chicago Sky Elite Camp as the team has held several one-day clinics in the past. The event drew 30 boys and girls between the ages 7 and 17 to Guerin’s Holy Cross Gym where they learned many new drills that came straight from Sky head coach Pokey Chapman’s own repertoire.
“We want to get people out, especially young girls,” said Chicago Sky ticket sales manager and youth basketball coordinator and former Northwestern University power forward Julie Bielawski, who conducted the camp. “We reach out to different high schools and colleges in the area, and it’s no cost to the school. All camps come with a ticket to a Sky game (on Aug. 17). They’re fortunate to have a pro team in the area. When I was growing up in Arkansas, we just had the college team. This my favorite part of my job besides going to games.”
The Sky and Guerin were brought together by Bielawski’s experience in helping Guerin assistant girls’ coach Jim Russo with his AAU team called Full Package. With the Sky having their practice facility in Deerfield, they liked the fact that Guerin is centrally located so they could attract many youngsters who can benefit from such a camp and become future Sky fans.
“I feel fortunate that they contacted me and Jim Russo to have this camp for these kids,” said Guerin head girls basketball coach Johnnie Gage. “It’s really good for the program. This is a big achievement for Guerin Prep. It doesn’t matter what school you play for or how good you are, you can still come and learn something. I’ve been coaching for 40 years, and I’m participating, and I guarantee I’ll probably pick up something. I feel like a kid in a candy store.”
Many of the campers came from Chicago and surrounding suburbs as well as Wisconsin.
“I wanted to improve in basketball and learn some new drills,” said Emmie Larson, who is soon to be a sixth-grader at St. Celestine. “I learned how to shot-fake, and it’s been a cool experience, and I made some new friends.”
Gage helped spread the word about the camp through the Tuesday and Thursday weekly camps hosted at Guerin with the River Grove Raiders coached by Mike Ciancio.
“We do a lot of exercises and drills,” said Sasha Martin, who lives in Cicero and is going into seventh grade at St. Leonard School in Berwyn.
Her mother, Isabella, attended and was happy with her overall experience at the Sky camp and with Gage’s influence.
“He’s a really good motivator and pushes them with different techniques,” Isabella said.
One of the campers was an incoming Guerin freshman who was glad to be getting a taste of what it will be like to get to play in that gym.
“It’s a good camp to brush up on my skills,” said incoming freshman Angela Pagalunan. “I hadn’t played in three months, but it feels like I’ve been playing the whole time. We worked on a lot of stuff, and it’s good to play with some different people. This is probably the biggest gym I’ve ever been in. I’m excited to be in here.”
“Coach Gage gave me a flier and told me about the camp,” said Mary Kate Hogan from Chicago and a seventh-grader at St. Monica. “I’m learning how to play better than I did before.”
Xavier Castaneda, a seventh-grader at Inter-American school in Chicago lives right down the street from Guerin and received a flier from his father. He felt that he improved his leadership at the camp, and he’s looking forward to his first Sky game.