THOMAS — The 100-plus basketball campers participating in the Lady Panther Basketball camp have been through three days of intensive and educational drills and competition, but their enthusiasm has never waned.
"These girls and this camp have been nothing short of spectacular," said Snake River girls basketball coach Rich Dunn. "They have done everything that we have asked and more, and to have the support of the great assistant coaches that we gathered this year has been just phenomenal."
Those coaches include Mike Kirkham, who helped move the camp out to Snake River this year; Raimee Beck, the all-time leading scorer at the Air Force Academy and an all-Mountain West Conference performer; Bailey Brown, a former Blackfoot High School star and a member of the Salt Lake Community College team this past season and Eden Van Orden, heading to Southern Utah University on a volleyball scholarship and an all-state performer in basketball.
They teamed up with current and former players from Snake River and Blackfoot High Schools to conduct the camp and all have received rave reviews from the parents and participants involved.
"To be asked to be a part of this camp was a real honor," said Beck. "When Coach Kirkham called me and I was able to fit this into my schedule, I was so excited. I want to be able to add coaching to my list of goals. This will be a nice transition for me and allows me to give something back to the game that has brought me so much."
The campers were finishing up with some one-on-one competition on Friday and awards and honors to the girls were distributed late that afternoon.
"All of our awards are earned during this camp. If we have an award that is not handed out, it simply wasn't earned," said Dunn. "We want to instill in the girls some work ethic and drive and determination towards achieving their goals in basketball. Our awards are not popularity contests and must be earned during camp."
Some of the assistant coaches involved were simply giving back to the sport, while others were 'testing' the waters for a possible future in coaching themselves.
"I have had my college career cut short by injury," said Brown. "I am transferring to the University of Utah this fall and this has been a great experience for me and has given me some thought about a possible future in coaching."
The participants all raved about the one-on-one attention the coaches were able to give to the girls.
"Raimee was just awesome," said Billie Gibson of Snake River. "She has shown us so much in such a short amount of time and the sharing of some of her experiences on the college level have shown all of us what we need to do to take the next step. This has been a great camp. I can't wait for next year."
Maddison Pilster, who started for Blackfoot High School last year, also served as an assistant coach during the camp.
"I really liked the kids and the enthusiasm they all showed this week," said Pilster. "They all showed interest and they have all learned what it will take to be involved on the varsity level as they go on with their careers."
While this year's camp drew participants from Rexburg to McCammon and all spots in between, plans are already underway to involve as many more kids from the area as possible next year.
"If I don't take anything else from this camp but the pure joy of seeing former high school players from the area like Raimee Beck, Shayla Christensen, Eden Van Orden and Bailey Brown come back and contribute like they did, I consider this whole event a major success," said Dunn. "I can't wait to see the effect of this camp on our kids down the road. I am so proud of the way my girls were so receptive to some of the new ideas and things that we tried to present to them this week."