The latest West Coast Advantage basketball camp takes place on Friday and Saturday, led by owner and Mingus Union alumnus Chris Johnson.
WCA will have a Skill Development Camp at MUHS on Friday and Saturday at 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on both days. The cost is $50 for one day or $80 for both.
The camp is for boys and girls age seven to high school.
Chris Johnson, owner of WCA, is from Cottonwood, went to Mingus Union, played college basketball and in the ABA. He was All-Grand Canyon Region twice and now he’s the Marauders’ freshman girls basketball coach.
“As a coach Chris is very detailed in his approach towards getting the girls prepared fundamentally,” said Mingus varsity head girls basketball coach Frank Nevarez. “He’s excellent in teaching our girls the fundamentals concerning the handling the ball, the dribbling, shooting. He’s excellent in those areas.”
The camp will feature special guest Daryl Harrison, an Arizona Western College assistant coach and a Nike Phenom Operations Director.
Call (480) 678-5520 for more information about the camp.
Nevarez said the camps have helped a lot.
“Well since we started last year and we’re doing more this year, I can see how the freshmen that came up last year, and they’re sophomores now, and some of the sophomores last year that are juniors now, I can see a difference in their ball handling skills, in their basketball IQ,” Nevarez said. “So I can see a difference For me as we keep on going in this direction, it’s only going to an incredible benefit to the program.”
The Verde Valley Newspapers talked to Johnson this week before the camp.
VVN: When did you start playing basketball?
Johnson: I started playing basketball when I was probably at least 5 or 4. I was born in Indiana, so it was forced upon me (laughs).
VVN: When did you start coaching?
Johnson: I started coaching in 2013, I started my business in 2013.
VVN: How did you get that started?
Johnson: Shoot, basketball’s been the love of my life and I just wanted to keep the passion for the game the rest of my life so I started it in my mom’s apartment.
VVN: What’s it like running it?
Johnson: Oh it’s a lot of fun, especially doing something you love to do and that you see growing. I made a logo from a word processor and then I got it professionally made, so it’s growing.
VVN: Is that your day job or do you do something else?
Johnson: It’s basically one of my main jobs. I bartend in Jerome for just two days.
VVN: What’s the impact that you have seen on kids that have been at the camps?
Johnson: They seem like they learn a lot and they stay focused. Personally I don’t like kids messing around at camps and laughing, talking. I like them keeping focused on their coaches and doing the best to their ability. I’ve had Mike Bibby come up here and do a camp in Cottonwood…I’ve had a few professionals up here so the kids can get to see that up here, because they don’t get to see that too often.
VVN: What’s been your favorite thing about coaching in general?
Johnson: Just seeing the kids grow in the game. On and off the court, a lot of kids, especially since it’s a small town, a lot of kids, especially nowadays, come to school to get love, not taught, so I just want to see them grow as humans, they need that.
VVN: What’s the biggest unforeseen difficulty you’ve encountered with running the business?
Johnson: Probably the scheduling, just seeing when’s the off time, when’s the best time to do the camps, what times, because it’s really all about the parents, scheduling when it comes to teaching kids.
VVN: How has basketball changed since you were in high school?
Johnson: It’s changed a lot actually. These kids seem that they’re not as big as they used to be, but skill wise they’re growing a lot. There’s a lot more basketball trainers now, especially out west and it’s great to see. I graduated in 2009 from high school. It’s good to see all these kids growing. We have kids named Chaz (Taylor) and Chase (Saczalski), from the boys and they’re on a powerhouse team in Phoenix. Those kids are going to AAU basketball, which is the most important thing to get scouted.
VVN: What’s it like coaching at Mingus having played there?
Johnson: It’s different, every time I walk in the gym I just look around. It’s a cool experience, actually a great experience to coach there.
VVN: Finally, who are you rooting for in the Finals? Is there a team that you’re rooting for? (asked Wednesday morning)
Johnson: I just want a good series.