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.

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Summer basketball camp is a confidence-builder

 The shot was released just beyond the 3-point arc. It looked as if it might go in the basket, but bounced off the rim at the last second.

The shooter wanted another try. Again, the ball went up and when it came down, there was no doubt this time. It was in, baby!

Those young players in the Xavier summer basketball camp were impressed. They had just seen Xavier head coach Jennifer Gillom, show what helped make her a force in the WNBA and as an Olympic player.

Gillom began to use her “pep talk’’ voice.

“See? It’s all about confidence,’’ she said. “You can miss a shot like that and think you won’t be able to make it. But if you keep trying, it’s going to go in.’’

That was just one of many pieces of advice that Gillom passed along to the group of 15-20 players in Monday’s (June 21) first of four days of camp at XCP’s Activity Center.

Xavier coaches like to see good ball-handling and tight defense. (Photos by Don Ketchum).

One of the first orders of business for Gillom and Xavier junior varsity coach Myron Crawford, who will run the camp during the final three days, was to get an idea of what types of skills the campers possess. Players here have a wide range of age and skill levels.

Gillom and Crawford were assisted by a numer of current varsity players – Gosi Alilonu, Sienna Cherwinski, Kalynn Doss, Toni Garcia, Emily Manuelito, Sarah Miller, Gabi Trbovic and Maureen Ulrich.

“The skills, we were looking for a good mixture,’’ Gillom said. “Ball-handling, passing, shooting, and they should have good footwork.

“Myron is a very good player development coach. He is patient with the kids. He has worked with some of the elite club teams and he’s great with giving them the fundamentals.’’

About halfway through the first session, Crawford had already noticed a few players who have above-average skills.

XCP varsity players (center of photo) Maureen Ulrich, Sienna Cherwinski and Sarah Miller watch a camper start to drive through the lane.

“There are a couple of players here who have promise and who have played club already,’’ he said. “If all of the girls keep working hard, who knows what might happen for them?’’

The last minutes of Day 1 were devoted to playing actual “games,’’ and the players were anything but timid. They went after the ball as if they were competing for a state title.

There is something about working with young people like this that helps the coaches remain energized.

“I think the kids enjoyed it. They got a lot out of it,’’ Gillom said. “It gives them an opportunity to learn new things and make new friends.’’

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