One of the finest experiences in my multi-decades of sports development was the recent Mississippi Travel Camps Project that concluded July 3. I was privileged to jointly work with the legendary Coach Gladstone “Moon” McPhee in coordinating the inaugural Mississippi Travel Camps, which afforded young male and female basketball players, competition and exposure at elevated levels, in advanced environments in several Mississippi cities.
Representing HOYTES (Helping Our Youth Through Education and Sports) and the Grand Bahama Sports Promotion Association respectively, McPhee and I, were assisted greatly by and interacted with associated coordinator Kelly McCuin (who is based in Oxford); Coach Ronnie Hamilton and Coach Chris Ayers from the University of Mississippi; coaches Chiquita Bracey from Ruleville High and Coach Cliff Orman of Oxford High; Coach Randy Bolden of St. Andrews High; and in particular, the Ruleville High, Oxford High and St. Andrews High School players.
The players out of Grand Bahama and New Providence who took part in the Mississippi Travel Camps, included: Kendi Outten, Beyonce Tate, Odesha Jones, Marcia Nottage, Beyonce Forbes,
Joshua Fawkes, Dacota Johnson, Javier Johnson, Jonathon Joseph, Darren Anderson, Lincoln Ritchie, Michael Prosper and Durron Parker. Kwasi Wiggins served as the coach for the boys and girls; and also in the group, were chaperones Carolyn Forbes and Shantel Greene.
McPhee, who has a long history of basketball camps, inside and outside of the country said the venture lived up to all of his expectations.
“I expected the project to come out successfully, because I know from a lot of experiences, what we were heading into. With the Grand Bahama Sports Promotion Association, came a lot of help in structuring the programme from the start. It was tough, but nothing that turns out successful comes without the rough areas that you have to deal with. We dealt with all of the challenges from day one. Only the Grand Bahama Sports Promotion Association (GBSPA) and HOYTES would ever have a full appreciation form what we went through with this first one, but that’s OK. We pulled it off, and nobody can take away from us what we did. We afforded these kids, all of them, experiences of a lifetime. And let me say, they and their parents and guardians got one hell of a bargain. The fee of $800.00 got them much more than the actual dollar value. Transportation two ways on the cruise ship Celebration to West Palm Beach; inland transportation all the way into Oxford, Mississippi; travel back and forth from three cities outside of Oxford, our base; hotel accommodations for 10 days; food and incidentals, plus the basketball experience. The package was worth around$1,200.00. We will have to evaluate going forward, but we, HOYTES and the GBSPA, wanted to frame a new sports development project and that’s exactly what we did. The kids were fortunate to be associated with the kind of long-time experience that we have in planning and coordinating these events.
“I am extremely satisfied with the court activities the players engaged in, all of them. There were some disappointments connected to the trip. There were times when portfolios overlapped and ought to have been left strictly to the coordinators, but we resolved those issues and to a player, in our post talks with them, they expressed great appreciation for the opportunities they got. We touched base with most of the parents and the good feeling was mutual and they expressed their thanks. We understand though, the parents determine priorities. Now that the significance of the travel camps project has been established, there will be a greater understanding of what we are tackling. Soon, in a few weeks, HOYTES and the GBSPA will host a meet and greet affair and begin the process, very early towards the Mississippi Travel Camps 2020,” said McPhee during his post analysis.
Coach Wiggins said he left “the management of the travel camps project to the coordinators” and focused as he was expected to on the court action of the girls and the boys.
“The girls were fortunate that the trip was at the same time that Coach Yolett (McPhee-McCuin), the University of Mississippi Women’s Head Coach, was having her camp. They got a wealth of experience and then then also played against high school teams from Ruleville and Oxford, while the boys played three games against high school teams, St. Andrews being the last one.
“With the girls, we saw that Kendi was a cut above and she was sponsored in the Elite Camp category for two days. Everyone who saw her liked her court presence. We saw potential in our big girl, Beyonce Tate, who has a bright future; the solid shooting of Beyonce Forbes; defensive instinct of Odesha Jones; and Marcia Nottage gave us a five that held their own.
“As for the boys, I can say that I was impressed with them all. It was nostalgic for me from my high school days. I wanted especially, to get the two really youngest, Darren Anderson and Jonathon Joseph some action against the big boys. The experience will go a long way for them. Against Ruleville, Jonathon put up four shots and hit one. Those two little boys were comfortable out there. I was proud of them. We knew we were up against advanced players and it was not about winning, rather all about them getting the experience. We could have beaten Ruleville though. We were neck and neck for most of the game.
“Overall, you couldn’t ask for anything better for the kids,” said Coach Wiggins.
Praise for the players also came from McCuin.
“They did very well. The idea was to show them what they have to go through to become players colleges would be interested in. Well, several of them drew a lot of attention. When they played against St. Andrews High, two Division 2 coaches were in the gym watching. You never know where than could go” said McCuin.
Of course, the NCAA rules prohibit any connection with players. There can be no recruiting and all and sundry had that awareness.
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