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Hooked on hoops at DeWees' annual summer camp

HAMPSTEAD

Manchester Valley girls basketball coach Heather DeWees paced back and forth in front of her "Hooked on Hoops" skills camp and asked the group what it learned Wednesday afternoon.

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It was the second-to-last day of the camp — a day focused on learning the specifics of defending the basketball.

"Help defense," shouted one camper, while another chimed in, "Deny!"

DeWees used each contribution from the crowd as a teachable moment, providing a few additional pieces of advice.

"All of these moves, you can do by yourself at your house," she added, echoing the emphasis of her entire camp. DeWees, whose summer program is in its ninth year in Carroll County, has roots of running similar instructional camps for 20 years dating back to her time in Catonsville.

The coach's camp, held at North Carroll High School with the help of current and former Mavericks and Panthers players, emphasizes technique and skill building. Using cards to track a player's progress throughout the week, counselors measure skills like layups, free-throw shooting and dribbling, and grade each player's performance per day. By Thursday, participants could see how they've improved in different aspects of their game.

They can also learn how to continue that work on their own time.

"So, my whole camp is geared toward, 'what do I do when I leave camp?'" DeWees said. "'How am I going to work out by myself? How am I going to work out with a couple of friends? How can I be a better basketball player on my own initiative and not rely on a coach or another person?'"

For children going into kindergarten, all the way through ninth-graders, the opportunity to learn from a high school coach is valuable.

"She enforces the same respect that she should receive [in high school]," said Jayce Klingenberg, a soon-to-be junior at Manchester Valley and member of the Mavericks basketball team. "And she teaches the same skill sets because they're the fundamentals you need to be successful."

Klingenberg was a former camper under DeWees, as were many of the counselors throughout the week. She said her high school and AAU coach runs the camp like a Mavs practice.

Klingenberg worked with DeWees' daughter, Mackenzie — the reigning Times Player of the Year — along with other Manchester Valley teammates like Marlee Dzergoski. Former Mavericks multi-sport athlete Kristen Cannon worked as a counselor as well.

"Hooked on Hoops" is for boys and girls, which stems from DeWees' own days as a camp-goer in West Virginia. Limited by options for the most part, she was often the only girl in a camp surrounded by boys.

In the morning, individuals work on specific skills through various drills. Then in the afternoon, after the younger campers have left for the day, players put what they've learned into practice in a team atmosphere.

Garrett Boerner, 13, likes learning various moves from current and former high school standouts. The North Carroll Middle School student said he's already gotten better at cutting to the basket, working on his shooting form and how to play defense.

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"They kind of help you through everything and teach you if you don't understand it," he said of the counselors.

DeWees insists that she couldn't put on the camps alone. Between the parents who help with administrative duties, and her counselors directing skill groups, the Mavs coach has been able to stand back and manage from a broader perspective.

The coach said she hopes that campers leave the four-day program with a higher basketball IQ, as well as a better understanding on how to continue to improve.

She also hopes some of the campers leave with a desire to contribute to a similar camp one day — possibly even her own.

"It's definitely a technical camp, and yeah, we want our kids to have fun," she said. "But I've prided myself on saying that, you know, I want them to learn how to be basketball players, and I want them to learn how to potentially one day be coaches."

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