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The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • Looking to the future: Young Pioneers benefit from older players at LHS camp

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  • There was a steady thud echoing Monday afternoon through the northern wing of Leavenworth High School.
    A group of almost 40 middle school basketball players stood on the edge of the court and practiced left-handed dribbling during Pioneers basketball camp.
    A host of players, including Washburn University-bound Cameron Wiggins and Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference freshman of the year Grant Greenberg patrolled the line of campers.
    Every once in awhile, the older players would swipe at a camper's ball, testing their ball security with their weak hand.
    With each successful escape from the hands of the former Pioneer stars, the campers faces lit up.
    The goal for many of the campers is to someday be where Wiggins and Greenberg are now — weaving through a group of younger players and teaching fundamentals to the next generation of Leavenworth varsity players.
    Wiggins said he attended Pioneer camp every year when he was younger, and can remember what it was like to be on the other side of the court waiting for the opportunity to show his skills to the accomplished players older than him.
    "It was definitely an impact for me," Wiggins said. "It's what (the players) did. I looked up to them so if they were doing it, I might as well do it, too, so I could be like them."
    Camper Nathan Waugh echoed Wiggins' recollections. As a current middle-schooler working with players like Wiggins and Greenberg, he said having those players around adds credibility to what the camp teaches.
    "They're experienced and they know what they're talking about," Waugh said.
    The Leavenworth basketball camp run by head coach Larry Hogan has been around as long as he's been at the school, since 1983.
    As the coach gazed at his current roster hanging on the wall in his office, he noted that almost his entire team came up through the camp.
    With an emphasis on fundamentals and a good attitude, Hogan said since the camp's inception, it's provided a structure for local players to gain good habits as they come up through the ranks.
    "It's fundamental teaching," Hogan said. "So, when they get to the high school level, they have a basis to continue their development. If you have to start with them, it's a heck of a lot harder."
    Adding older players to the mix gives campers an example to look up to.
    Hogan recalls the time Patrick Dougherty, then a short, stocky camper, started hanging around one of his players, current Northwestern University assistant coach Pat Baldwin, after camp and emulating his shooting drills.
    By the time Dougherty reached high school, the wide-eyed middle schooler was a 6-foot-7 Division I prospect with a deadeye jump shot.
    Page 2 of 2 - "It's kind of funny because I'll see a kid now or maybe during the basketball season, and then if we do something during a small clinic I'll see someone," Hogan said. "Sometimes they'll walk in and I haven't seen them for three or four months and it'll be like 'Wow,' because he's grown (so much)."
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