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John Paul II hosts sessions for all ages

The offseason hasn’t slowed John Paul II athletics in the slightest. After hosting football camps two weeks ago, the Catholic school hosted an all-ages basketball camp last week, with morning and afternoon sessions.

The camp started with a morning skills session from 9 a.m to noon. During the morning, boys varsity basketball coach Stacey Benedik put the players through ball-handling, passing, shooting and multiple half-court drills. The morning was dedicated to developing skills: learning new offensive moves, defensive rotations, perfecting shooting form. After a long three-hour session, the camp would recess until 4:30 in the afternoon.

“Skill development, we have so many young guys,” said Benedik last week about the focus of the camp. “Our kids are playing football and basketball, so we’re still missing a few of the football players that are nursing some injuries. So we couldn’t do as much of the team stuff that I’d like to do, but it’s a great opportunity to really work on their skills. We’ve done a ton of ball-handling and we’ve seen significant improvement just from Monday to (Thursday).”

The afternoon session, held Monday through Thursday, was all about games. The camp broke up into four teams and played round-robin full-court games, 15 minutes a piece. No official score was kept, but the campers took note of the winners for bragging rights. Coach Benedik told his campers the afternoon games were the time to implement the new skills learned from the morning – try that new crossover move, or the up-and-under layup.

But the theme of the camp was undoubtedly, “Challenge yourself.”

Coach Benedik believes in correcting mistakes and challenging his players to play with all-out intensity every offensive and defensive possession. He brought that same challenge to his campers. He challenged the varsity girls to step out of their comfort zones and guard the boys varsity players. He challenged the shorter players to attack the rim, even when a 6-foot senior was guarding them.

“Every year, the camp gets a little bit bigger, it gets more competitive,” Benedik said. “We’ve got freshmen that are pushing seniors for spots and that’s great for everybody. It’s great for the program and its great for our seniors because it shows nothing is being given to them.”

JPII’s basketball program is entering its fourth year. Last season, the Golden Warriors boys and girls varsity teams both took large leaps forward (boys finished 18-9 overall and 6-8 in SCISA Region 2-AA; girls finished 7-14 overall and 4-11 in SCISA 2-AA), but Benedik said both teams are still trying to build a foundation.

“Right now is still about building the culture,” said Benedik. “We’re only four years in, we can’t let them make mistakes and not correct them. We’re doing them a disservice if we don’t correct every mistake. It’s been competitive, even in the little one-on-one ball drills. Everybody’s getting it, everybody’s yelling for each other.”

That foundation should receive some help from incoming transfers Melik Frost, formerly at RHHS, Zach Doe, and Amere Cherry. The girls team saw a strong performance from rising freshman Taylor Michael.

“Melik has been just a huge surprise. He’s a leader, he plays as hard on the defensive end as he does on the offensive end. His skill level is higher than I thought it was, even from Monday to (Thursday),” Benedik said. “Taylor, who’s going to be a freshman female player, there’s nobody that’s come further from last year as a middle schooler to where she’s at right now. She’s going to be a contributor on the varsity for the girls program. It’s been fun to watch.”

By the end of the week, campers left with sore legs and sore stomachs from many laughs and fun.

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