Photo by Heather Middleton
By Doug Gorman
It's become a summertime tradition at Clayton State.
Area high school boys basketball teams converge on campus the first week of June for the start of the annual team basketball camp.
It was something that was sort of in place before current head coach Gordon Gibbons took over the Lakers in 2001, but it has exploded since then, becoming one of the most attended team camps in Georgia.
"What they had done with the team camp before we got here was make it an officials clinic, and they would have about eight schools, and the officials would come here and get to officiate a few games; it was mostly Clayton County schools," Gibbons said. "We have been able to grow it, every year."
It's no longer a clinic for officials, but a chance for teams to concentrate on the upcoming season.
Most of the teams from Henry and Clayton are expected to show up at Clayton State, but state powers such as Miller Grove, Norcross, and Columbia have also signed up.
This year more than 100 teams will bring their varsity and junior varsity teams to camp.
Jonesboro head coach Dan Maehlman calls the Clayton State team camp the best around.
"It's centrally located and so many different teams can come," he said. "For us, it's close to home and the competition is so good."
A year ago, Eagle's Landing posted its best season in school history going 26-5 and earning a trip to the Class AAA Final Four. With four returning starters expected back this season, the Golden Eagles should again to be one of the state powerhouses.
Despite all the preseason accolades, the Golden Eagles should benefit from attending the CSU camp.
"Our second group is very inexperienced and it has shown some," Eagle's Landing head coach Clay Crump said. "This is a very competitive camp, athleticism doesn't make all the difference now, it's about team work and execution, and those are the things we want to work on."
North Clayton head coach Martisse Troup's club will enter the season fresh off a trip to the state tournament, and coming to the CSU camp will help the Eagles prepare for the 2011-12 campaign.
The Eagles bring back highly recruited Marcus Hunt, but several guys who were role players a year go are expected to see more playing time this year. Troup says that's how coming to Clayton State's team camp helps team get ready.
"Some of those guys are going to have to step up and start. When we come here, they get a lot of playing time," Troup said. It's different when they turn the lights on for real, but the more game experience they get, that can carry over to the season."
Maehlman's club won the Region 4-AAAA title last season, and advanced all the way to the Class AAAA semifinals, but enters the camp with an important objective.--replacing Division I signees Rasham Suarez and James White.
"We have four guys coming back, and six guys who didn't play at all, so this camp can have a huge impact on not only seeing kids play, but this basically for me I can evaluate my kids for the upcoming season," Maehlman said.
According to Gibbons, the camp has become so popular because Clayton State tailors the camps around the coaches' needs,
"Coaches use the month of June to get ready for next season, and we able to do that for them," he said.
The also helped put Clayton State on the map.
"I told somebody the other day that we have never sighed a high school kid who hasn't played at our camp," Gibbons said. "It gives us a lot of time to spend time and to get the know the high school coaches."