DON KETCHUM is a native of Phoenix. He was a sportswriter for The Arizona Republic/The Phoenix Gazette for nearly four decades. He covered high school sports on several occasions as well as the Arizona Diamondbacks, Arizona Cardinals and Arizona State sports. From 2008-14, he was a staff writer for, the web site of the Arizona Interscholastic Association.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Young basketball players thirsty for knowledge

Is  there a lot of interest for girls to participate in Xavier Prep’s summer basketball camp?

To find the answer, all you have to do is look on the top level of the retracted bleachers in the Activity Center.

There are water bottles of every size and color. According to Xavier coach Jennifer Gillom, there have been 50 girls in the camp that runs from Jan. 17-21 for girls in fifth through ninth grades.
A lot of water bottles for a lot of young ladies participating in Xavier Prep's annual summer basketball camp in the Activity Center (photos by Don Ketchum).

Xavier coach Jennifer Gillom is surrounded by young basketball players wanting to soak up every bit of information that they can about the game.
It’s almost difficult to believe, unless you count what the Gators have done in the last several seasons under Gillom, including back-to-back appearances in the 6A Conference state championship game.

Gillom said she expected 25 or 30 players, but when she discovered that the number had ballooned to 50, she was ecstatic.

“It was really, really a surprise,’’ she said.

“It’s great to see all these girls out here. I’d say the talent level is better than some that we’ve had in recent years.’’

With the sessions lasting two hours each day, it doesn’t leave a lot of time to dive deep into a lot of subjects, but Gillom believes the players can establish a good base.

“We put these girls at various stations, give them passing drills, running, screening, rebounding, defense and teamwork in game situations,’’ Gillom said. “Setting screens is interesting, because you probably won’t see that much in camps like this. We want them all to be better by the end of the week.’’

The sessions start with fun drills to create energy for the girls.

“We do that to get them focused, and we want to make sure they work hard,’’ she said.

Gillom is assisted by varsity assistant Patrick Mangosing, junior varsity coach Laura Forbes and about 15 players from the combined varsity and JV teams who will be returning to XCP this coming winter.

Players come from all over the area. Gillom isn’t sure whether any of them will wear Xavier blue – she just wants them to develop their skills so they can play somewhere.

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