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Basketball: Century's success translating at annual summer camp

Ben Martin, 10 makes a free throw during Century boys basketball camp for students entering grades 5-9 on Monday July 10, 2017.
Ben Martin, 10 makes a free throw during Century boys basketball camp for students entering grades 5-9 on Monday July 10, 2017. (KEN KOONS/STAFF PHOTO)

When Times Boys Basketball Player of the Year Zach Tucker stopped by Century High School a few weeks ago for the first of two summer camp sessions, the campers' faces lit up.

"He was like a mini celebrity coming into the gym," Knights coach George Wunder recalled.

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The influence of Wunder's current, and former, varsity players is evident within the camp, where the elementary and middle school students who come to take part in one of Wunder's sessions clearly admire the older boys.

And for good reason — the Knights, led by their all-around guard in Tucker, won county and regional titles last winter, and advanced to the Class 2A state final for the first time in program history. Century fell to Patterson at University of Maryland's Xfinity Center on March 11, but that first state final experience was one Wunder and his players would never forget.

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"We were fortunate to play in the state finals and looking at the crowd a little before the game started, I saw a lot of our community there supporting us," Wunder said. "A lot of these kids were there supporting us so when they see Zach and some of our other players coming to the camp, it's something they get really excited about.

"It's cool to see from my perspective just to watch the interaction that goes on with the high school guys and the younger guys because about 90 percent of our players grew up through our camps and it's neat to see how that evolves from being a camper to a player to being a leader and a counselor within our camp."

Campers entering fifth to ninth grade are eligible to join Wunder's summer camp — he hosts one session for elementary school students and two for middle-schoolers. The first session took place in late June; the second runs through Friday.

Century fielded its first varsity basketball team in 2002, one year after the school opened. Wunder has been the program's driving force since it started and began holding camps soon after his arrival.

Wunder's goal, he said, was to offer summer camps for players in the community that would eventually come to Century. The camps have grown over the years, attracting kids from Westminster and North Carroll, a facet Wunder enjoys because it increases diversity among players from other parts of the county.

Noah Riley and Colby Owings, both 14, are two campers eager to potentially make their marks within the Knights' basketball program. Chris Riley, Noah's older brother, graduated from Century in 2012; Zach Owings, Colby's older brother, is a rising senior and was part of the Knights' 22-3 season this past winter.

"My brother, I've watched him play throughout the years," Colby Owings said. "Seeing how far they got in the playoffs and how good they did in the season truly inspires us to want to get to that level."

Riley and Owings are good friends and have been participating in Wunder's camp together for at least six years.

"They have great coaches here," Riley said. "They've always helped us and we've gotten better every time we come to this camp."

Before the campers paused for a lunch break Monday, they had already completed a variety of station work, two games, and free-throw drills. The remainder of Monday's itinerary included free shooting exercises, more stations, a 3-point shooting competition, and a third game to close out the first day.

Wunder said his primary focus with his young campers comes down to two things — ball handling and shooting — and he enlists the help of assistants Scott Anderson and Steve Weatherholt, as well as current and former Knights players.

"We have a lot of fun stuff mixed in there," Wunder said. "My focus is really the skill development and station work. Their focus is probably the contests and the games but it's a good balance within the day."

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Azariah Knox, a rising senior guard, started helping at Wunder's camp after his freshman year. He said his favorite thing about being a counselor is watching the kids improve as they transition through the camp and its activities.

"The simple things, really," Knox said. "[Teach them] how to score easily, how to play the game the right way that way they can possibly come in here and make an impact and play basketball the way I did and just have fun and enjoy the game."

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