Jan. 30, 2004
When the Iowa basketball team opens its doors to hundreds of eager, young basketball enthusiasts each summer for camps, long-time program administrator Jerry Strom remembers a special camper, who tried for years to make the elite all-star game played on the third day of the four-day experience.
Sadly, the young man could never crack the elusive teams, chosen by the several coaches of the various camp teams across the age groups. He never was able to demonstrate all of his skills or promise.
But the perpetually disappointed player didn’t give up his dreams of one day returning to Carver-Hawkeye Arena and playing before a capacity crowd of more than 15,000, making the important 3-pointer that won the game.
And it was a good thing Kent McCausland kept the faith too. He not only led his teams each season from beyond the arc, but he remains Iowa’s second-most prolific 3-point shooter at 214 goals and led the nation in triples his sophomore season. McCausland is even honored in the Basketball Hall of Fame.
Strom always recounts McCausland’s rise to the top at the summer camps he’s worked in some capacity since Lute Olson started the clinics more than 25 years ago.
Today, the camps are located not only in Iowa City but in Muscatine, Storm Lake and Coach Steve Alford’s hometown of New Castle, IN.
For five weeks each summer, the University of Iowa opens its doors and its basketball program to students from elementary school to high school, in what could be the largest outreach effort the university makes each year.
The University of Iowa Summer Basketball Camps have been offering premiere instruction to youths of all skill levels for more than a quarter century and have even graduated some of the Hawkeyes’ finest players, including the late Chris Street, Jess Settles and current point guard Jeff Horner.
The camps feature four daily full-court games within age and skill brackets, evening clinics on shooting, ball-handling and other fundamentals, lectures by Coach Alford, as well as individual and team awards each day.
And while the campers get a full dose of basketball information from those who know it best, they get the opportunity to interact with their peers from across the United States and around the world. Last summer’s camps had players from 25 states and five countries.
“Coach Alford is a tremendous clinician. He understands, being an ex-player, the hard work and discipline of being a basketball player better than anybody. Whether it’s shooting or defense or dribbling, you’re getting your money’s worth because Alford’s somebody who knows basketball, and knows how to teach it, and that’s a tremendous advantage for the kids who come here.”
Administrator Jerry Strom
According to Strom, the camps have a two-fold purpose: to help youths learn more about basketball, but to create a diverse environment in which students learn how to handle responsibility, make friends and work as a team as well.
“There’s a lot of diversity in camps,” he said. “You’re taking, in a four-day setting, the small-town kid from West Branch with the big-city kid from Detroit or Chicago with the kid from Bolivia and putting them on the same team. And they have to learn to get along with each other. So there are a lot of friendships that develop in camps.
“They’re really interesting and fun to see, because when you form a team you’ve got to learn to play together. Those are the neat experiences. Camp’s more than just learning more about basketball. It’s a growing-up period.”
While the camps aid up-and-coming talent, they also help the Iowa coaches and players. Indeed, the old maxim holds true: Those who teach learn twice.
“The coaches really work hard and put in a lot of time and dedication,” said Strom, who said coaches usually put in 10- to 13-hour days while camps are in session. “Those are long hours, but these are people who love kids and really want to teach them basketball and come away with a great experience.”
Since the Iowa basketball staff and players alone cannot accommodate the players at the desired one coach for every 10 players’ ratio, Strom heads the selection process for the best coaches across the country that lead the camp teams.
“It’s very prestigious,” says Strom, “and the weeding-out process to find the best coaches in this state and across the country is quite extensive. We do the best we can to screen the coaches because they’re going to be paramount to the success of the camp, and we’ve really been fortunate.”
But Iowa’s coach Alford still oversees all the instruction and gives demonstrations and lectures.
“(Campers) get coached by Jeff Horner and Greg Brunner and Brody Boyd, they get to know that those guys are pretty neat and they learn a lot. They remember them as friends as well as players and teachers.”
Administrator Jerry Strom
“Coach Alford is a tremendous clinician,” Strom said. “He understands, being an ex-player, the hard work and discipline of being a basketball player better than anybody. Whether it’s shooting or defense or dribbling, you’re getting your money’s worth because Alford’s somebody who knows basketball, and knows how to teach it, and that’s a tremendous advantage for the kids who come here.
“They learn how to shoot the basketball from one of the greatest shooters in college basketball. If you were to sit here and listen to Coach Alford lecture on a certain skill for 45 minutes, you would walk away learning so much you wouldn’t be able to keep it all in. That’s a neat experience in itself.”
Aside from the teaching, though, the campers get the experience to interact with the players and coaches they usually get to see solely from the comfort of their own living rooms each winter.
“It’s fun to go around the state of Iowa to places like Storm Lake because they’re farther away from Iowa City and can rarely see the Hawks play, since it’s a four- or five-hour drive,” said Strom. “So we bring the Hawkeyes to Northwest Iowa and run a camp for them. When you take it there, where they watch the games religiously in the wintertime, and they get coached by Jeff Horner and Greg Brunner and Brody Boyd, they get to know that those guys are pretty neat and they learn a lot. They remember them as friends as well as players and teachers.”
Barry Pump, hawkeyesports.com