By BRENT STUBBS
Senior Sports Reporter
BASKETBALL Smiles, one of the most successful Summer Basketball Camps to come out of the United States, will be returning for its 24th year next week.
Local coordinator coach Patricia ‘Patty’ Johnson confirmed that the co-ed camp for boys and girls between the ages of 4-16 will be staged from June 19-21 with a change in location to the Kendal Isaacs Gymnasium.
The camp is conducted by Sam Nichols, a retired Hall of Fame head women’s basketball coach at McMurry University in Abilene, Texas. He brings the camp to town with the motto: “We bring a week of smiles and hope through basketball.”
But according to Nichols, “along with basketball, we conduct a daily life skills programme during the camp that emphasises self-respect, academic success, good citizenship, and spiritual values. Our goal is not just to develop basketball players, but help build future leaders in The Bahamas.”
Nichols will be joined by Texas coaches Adam Young, Jonathan Gibson, Trovoice Jackson, Kyle and Renee Williams, David Bookman, Cam Hurd, Taylor Luster, and Chris Burrow.
“This group of coaches comprise a tremendous staff of dedicated coaches with big hearts who love teaching the game of basketball. We have the largest and most experienced staff in the history of Basketball Smiles,” Nichols said.
“All of these coaches raised their own money and are giving up their free time to come and work with Bahamian boys and girls. The quality of instruction will be second to none, and the love these coaches have for the campers will be second to none.”
Johnson, the long-time coach of the Lions at HO Nash Junior High School, welcomed the return of her long-time coach and mentor Nichols as well as his supporting cast.
“This year, we expect the kids to improve their game as the coaches provide them with more drills,” Johnson said. “We are also looking forward to working with the young kids and teaching them the fundamentals of the game, focusing on proper drilled, proper executions.
“We will also be working on their attitude towards the game, their selfishness, their attitude in the game and in the camp and in basketball because basketball is the avenue or ticket for some of these players who are interested in going off to high school or college.”
As one who would have benefitted from a college experience at Fort Valley, Johnson said if the campers use the game wisely, they can take it further and make something of themselves in the future.
“We will be pushing the educational aspects, making sure that the players are doing their school work because it’s students first and ball players second,” Johnson stressed.
“So we’re expecting the kids to come out and learn all of these quality tit bits that we have to offer. They will be able to ask the coaches questions about their schools, how kids move from high school to college in the United States and they can inquire what they need to know about getting into college.”
Nichols comes to town with a wealth of experience, having retired after coaching women’s basketball for 33 years. His last 12 years was spent as Head Women’s Basketball Coach at McMurry University. He retired as the all-time winningest Women’s Basketball Coach in McMurry University history.
In 2017 he was inducted into the prestigious McMurry University Athletic Hall of Honor. Sam has also been named as the Women’s Basketball Coach for the All-Century Team at McMurry University.
Nichols guided the Lady Indians to national prominence during his twelve seasons at McMurry University. He also won several Coach- of-the-Year honours during his career.
The camp is open to all high school boys and girls basketball players. However, each day, the girls will be in action between 9am and noon and the boys will follow from 1-4pm.
Basketball Smiles is sponsored in part in Nassau by The Atlantis, the Green Parrot, Kelly’s, Bahamas Wholesale, Lickety Split, D’Albenas Company, Wizard Signs, Rotary Club of Nassau Sunrise, and Rotary Club of East Nassau.