Pacific military dependents train at basketball camp
YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan -- More than 114 military children between 13 and 20 from U.S. military bases across the Pacific region attended the Mainland Basketball Association's Basketball Camp at Yokota Air Base, Japan, April 9 to 12, 2013.
The four-day camp trained athletes on basketball skills such as shooting, passing, dribbling, rebounding and defense and also educated the attendees on team concepts and college information.
According to their official Web site, MBA is a non-profit organization that promotes sportsmanship among all athletes through educational opportunities. It strives to assist in the development of young children and stresses the importance of being part of a team.
MBA Vice-President Mark Burton said military children, especially those overseas, do not get exposure to many basketball camps like children in the States do.
"It costs thousands of dollars to send their (service member's) children back to the States to show off their talents," Burton said. "We want to afford these kids the same opportunities to not only train, but to also have a chance of receiving scholarships."
The camp had 10 coaches from universities throughout the U.S. -- Grambling State, Dillard, Winston-Salem State, Claftin, University of California, Los Angeles, Fort Valley State, Huston-Tillotson, Santa Monica and Johnson C. Smith.
Although at last year's camp, two female athletes receive full-ride scholarships to Division 2 colleges; this year no scholarships were handed out. According to Ron Woodard, Claftin University basketball coach and camp director, the freshman and sophomore classes displayed great foundational skills and said the probability for scholarships in the coming years is positive.
Woodard also said the camp not only built on fundamental skills and offered chances of college, but also expanded the attendees' life goals.
"This year we really pushed to motivate them (camp participants) to take their Scholastic Aptitude Tests and American College Tests," Woodard said.
Woodard said that seeing children grow and improve their skill sets and minds is great and keeps him coming back each year to teach at the camp.
Jermaine Neal Jr., a camp participant and sophomore at Yokota High School, said the camp was fun and would like to attend another in the future.
"I really liked the scrimmages, it was my favorite part," the 15-year-old added. "I learned that most of the game is mental. We would do the drills and then play scrimmages, and I could tell from how I played that I had improved from before."
Jermaine also said the camp gave him an opportunity to play in front of college coaches, and his father agreed.
"It was pretty exciting," Jermaine Neal, Sr. said regarding the camp. "It gave the kids a chance to play in front of college coaches and they also went over mentoring and understanding the importance of basketball and academics."
He added that it was good to reiterate the educational importance along with the importance of athletic practice.
"My favorite part was when they (the camp coaches) sat down and talked about how academics can be compounded with athletics and how using them together can make you a better person and make you more marketable for college," Neal added.
Through their support of the U.S. Forces Japan and the Pacific Region, MBA is taking a step in improving higher educational routes and athletic programs for military children.