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.

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Hoops campers get comprehensive guidance

 The early summer is not a time for Xavier Prep’s Jennifer Gillom to get much relaxation. But that can be a good thing.

For most of June, the varsity basketball coach is multi-tasking. She leads the school’s varsity team in the evenings at the Thunderbird Summer League, and for two hours in the early afternoons for the week of June 20-23 puts younger players through their paces at XCP’s annual summer basketball camp in the Activity Center.

She has a good group of potential Gators for the camp, and gets assistance from some of her current Xavier varsity players – Lucy Sanford, Maureen Ulrich, CeCe Mlat, Gabby Trbovic, Gosi Alilonu and Annie Kopp.

There are about eight campers who will be entering their freshman year, eight more who are close behind in the eighth grade and a handful of younger players.

“There are some out here who have potential,’’ Gillom said.

It starts from the moment the players come through the door.

“Young players these days are more fundamentally sound than they were in the past,’’ Gillom said. “That is good. You don’t have to worry that much, just be able to work more on more advanced concepts and things they will be able to understand.’’

Some of the players will be ticketed for the JV-B (younger players/freshmen) and others for the JV-A (sophomores and perhaps a few juniors) this coming winter.

“We have ball-handling, shooting and running drills,’’ Gillom said. “We need work with our shooting form. We also are scrimmaging.’’

And there are various contests/drills to see which group can complete its task before anyone else. This draws enthusiasm for the varsity players such as the 6-foot-6 Mlat, a sophomore who ran along the sideline yelling encouragement and jumping into the air to give high fives.

“CeCe is really enjoying herself,’’ Gillom said, laughing.

“The thing about these older girls is that I think they are learning, too, and can pick up things they will be able to use in games later on, and to make good decisions.’’

Gillom prefers to play at a faster pace on both ends of the floor.

“I told ‘em I like to play the transition,’’ she said. “Get the ball out (from the basket to the wings) quickly and then score quickly. They are picking up on it. And to do this, you have to be emphasizing the footwork. These are things that they can practice the rest of the summer.’’

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