Playing at the big house

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 28, 2008

The Selma Times-Journal

Repeated thuds of basketballs striking hardwood echoed through cavernous Coleman Coliseum at the University of Alabama on Friday.

The college team was absent, but Selma and a host of other high schools made their presence known at Team Camp II – one of many developmental camps offered in the annual Mark Gottfried basketball camps series. The camp began Friday and concludes today.

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“We wanted to make sure that these young men got the opportunity to go to a team camp,” said Selma basketball coach Woodie Jackson. “I know it’ll be an experience they’ll never forget.”

The excitement displayed by Selma players supported Jackson’s feelings. Joining the camp inspired his players.

“I think we started working harder when he told us we were coming to the camp,” said point guard Jakobe Shannon.

Sports-related camps conjure images of individual attention, drills and instruction. Team camps follow a different pattern. Participating teams compete in 40-minute games in pool play. The teams left standing on Sunday will compete in a camp tournament, and the others will compete for return routes to their hometowns.

Selma High made a case to be a Sunday team with a 3-0 start on Friday. The Saints easily defeated Parkway Christian Academy in the first game, but ran into a challenge against Jess Lanier in game two. Jackson used the freeze tactic – dribbling the ball without taking shots – in the final three minutes of the game to secure the win.

“We’ve got a lot of role players, and they know what they’re supposed to do,” said Keaton Spears. “We’re just getting it done.”

They beat Livingston in their final game of the evening.

Saturday, the Saints improved their record to 5-0 with wins over Jim Hill and R.C. Hatch.

The camp will benefit the Saints in several ways.

They have the opportunity to play 10 to 12 games against teams that do not have Selma on their jerseys. That is camp’s biggest plus.

“When the players are playing against themselves, sometimes they’ll have a tendency of letting one another score,” said Jackson. “Up here you have to play in high gear all the time.”

The Saints will face teams from Georgia, north Alabama and Mississippi, exposing them to different styles and levels of competition. They will also build team chemistry.

“I’m glad we get time to room together because we get to talk,” said Shannon. “It brings our team chemistry together.”

The team entered the camp on a sour note. Wendell Lewis, a senior post player, will be held out of camp basketball games. He injured his foot at an NBA camp in Virginia last weekend and had an MRI Friday morning.

“He didn’t get a chance to play at the camp, and everybody wanted to see him play,” said Jackson. “We weren’t going to let him play. The physician told me to not even let him look at the floor.”

Jackson understands the benefits of camp participation. Jackson is determined to attend at least one team basketball camp a year.

“We always carry something back home because it shows you what you need to work on,” said Jackson. “Your weaknesses are definitely exposed.”