Harper sports the Magic touch

The Orlando Magic Basketball Camp at Camana Bay took place last month and there might be even bigger things on the way.

Camana Bay worked with the Orlando Magic franchise to bring down a handful of coaches, along with a current NBA player, to coach kids and experience Cayman for a week. It is a situation many would find ideal.

The cast of Magic representatives featured Antonio Perez, Stephanie Kuhn (the first female coach to attend the camp), Brian Wright, Andrew Teal and Patrick Crarey as coaches. The main attraction came in second year NBA player Justin Harper, whose athleticism and versatility is a welcome option to any head coach.

The camp was first started in 2009, when Magic coaches came down for a week during summer and impressed. The next year saw Vince Carter arrive with the spotlight on him and things have just gotten better.

This is the fourth year in a row that the camp has run and without the likes of Camana Bay staff members like Public Relations Coordinator Harriet Moon and Facilities Manager Jeff Wight it wouldn’t be possible. Wight had the original idea that sparked everything. He attended university with a member of the Orlando Magic staff and they were able to strike a deal and four years later it continues to run strong. “Now in its fourth year, the Orlando Magic Camp continues to grow from strength to strength,” said Wight, “This year saw 94 kids take part across two sessions held over five days. Last year’s guests were either former or current NBA stars and it was fantastic to have current Magic player Justin Harper join us for the last day and a half of camp. For the very first time, we had a female coach amongst the six professional Magic coaches who led the camp throughout the week.”

In years past, there have been other major members of the Orlando Magic, most notably in 2010 when then shooting guard for the team Vince Carter attended the camp. Justin Harper is only 22 and has the world at his fingertips, by no means the renowned player that Carter is, but still an impressive figure to bring down to Cayman. “Justin was great with kids of all ages. At 22 years old and fresh into the NBA last year, he was able to engage with many of the budding basketball players taking part, while all the kids enjoyed being able to play with an NBA star.” said Moon, “On court within a couple of hours of touching down in Cayman, Justin proved a dedicated coach and happily posed for pictures and signed autographs after practice, even giving one lucky player his shirt. It was Justin’s first visit to the Cayman Islands, and as a great addition to the camp, we hope it is not his last.”

While having an NBA player come down to the camp, that isn’t its greatest benefit. Having a coaching staff of as high a quality as the Magic’s is an amazing opportunity. Kids get the chance to tweak and improve their games according to real NBA scouts, people who know what it takes to get to that level of basketball. That sort of experience cannot be overlooked, which seems nearly impossible to the grateful staff of Camana Bay, “This year’s camp saw many of the professional coaches returning for a second or third year in a row,” said Wight, “A unique opportunity for aspiring hoop stars to train with high level coaches. Head Coach Donny Arey and his team made the week fun, yet challenging, for athletes of all ages and abilities. Camp-goers enjoyed authentic NBA instruction and gained practice in skills, drills, as well as live games and skill contests. They were terrific and I can’t thank them enough for coming down and making this happen.”

Every summer the Magic camp is a terrific highlight and a great success. Kids love playing there and parents love sending them to play. In fact, kids and parents alike have started asking for a longer camp because of the enjoyment. Some parents have even gone as far as signing up for next year’s camp a year in advance. The chance to expose an athletically involved child to a high level of coaching is priceless, and nobody wants to miss out. Because of the requests, the Camana Bay contingent that puts on the event will meet after summer to discuss the possibility of extending the camp an additional week. Cross your fingers kids, maybe you’ll get two weeks with an NBA star next summer.

Despite the camp being centred around basketball, the aim of the event isn’t to trigger a one-track interest in basketball, but to teach kids to habitually work hard for their goals. “The camp offers a fun and safe environment where kids can learn the skills of basketball,” explained Moon, “The coaching is of an extremely high standard, however, by no means is the camp just for basketball lovers. While we hope to inspire young players to pursue their dreams, we also hope that the kids who haven’t had a lot of experience playing the game leave loving the sport at the end of the week – or at least leave inspired to, like Justin, work hard to achieve their own goals. At a minimum, it gets kids moving and active for a week while introducing them to the world of competitive sports. We would like to thank the many parents who support us every year, as well as the young athletes who took part in the camp and made this year’s camp a great success. This year, all profits will be donated to the Cayman Islands Basketball Association, and we hope our efforts will particularly benefit youth development in sport.”

One thing is for sure, kids and parents of all ages love dthe Orlando Magic Basketball Camp at Camana Bay and all signs point to an even better camp next year.

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