“(The best part) is being around the kids. They put a smile on your face,” Spanish Springs coach Kyle Penney said. “The best part is hearing our players, my players, talk about these little kids. We come to practice and they’re talking about the kids at D-League, that’s the best part.”
This was the second year Penney ran the camp, which is for kids in first through eighth grade, and ran Saturday mornings in January through early February.
A prominent fundraiser himself, Penney got the idea for the camp from his coaching buddy Corey Thacker at Douglas High. Due to strong fundraising, Spanish Springs took three separate trips to California this preseason.
“I talk to him (Thacker) a lot and I just kind of (asked), ‘hey, is it OK if I kind of steal your deal’ and he was on board,” Penney said.
For the Spanish Springs players, the camp was a reprieve from Saturday morning practices and a way to connect with future players in the program – in theory.
“It’s a lot of fun. It’s cool because you actually kind of get to know them a little bit. They come every year,” Spanish Springs senior guard Kenny Meyer – the team’s leading scorer – said. “And we get to be around basketball and not actually have to practice. It’s cool because they get kind of close and start coming to our games.”
Senior guard Hunter Fralick – a quarterback commit at Nevada – echoed Meyer’s sentiment.
“It’s fun and it’s cool because these are the kids that are going to take our place and take stuff on…,” Fralick said. “These little kids just have fun. They don’t really know all the fundamentals yet or have the skills. It’s nice to play a game on Friday night where everything is intense and crazy and competitive, then to come out here with them and just have fun, it’s awesome.”
Penney said the purpose of the two-year-old camp goes beyond bringing money into the program to building a community connection to Spanish Springs hoops. With 57 youth enrolled in the camp, he is accomplishing both.
“It’s a great idea,” Michelle Bai, the mother of Ethan, 7, said. “(The players) are wonderful. They are patient with the kids … I love it.”
Bai enrolled her son into the camp for the first time this year to “try something different.”
After last year’s inaugural camp, Penney made a few changes to expand its horizon. One of the changes included using both the small gym and the large gym at Spanish Springs to use 10-foot and shortened hoops to accommodate the varying age groups.
With the difference in ages at the camp, Penney said another purpose of the camp is to teach the basics of basketball.
“We do a lot of station of work, obviously fundamentals are the important piece. You know we want to teach them fundamentals and teach them how to jump stop and pass and pivot. So we do a lot of station work,” Penney said. “And then we mix in some games – dribble games, shooting games. They do scrimmage a little bit time to time toward the last 10 to 15 minutes of the session. So we try to give them a good spectrum of what’s going on.”
Although the camp finished Saturday, the Spanish Springs boys basketball team is just starting its playoff run. The Cougars sit in second place in the High Desert League, trailing just league-leading and arch rival Reed with a game remaining in the regular season.
The Cougars and Raiders play Friday at Reed and more than likely, there will be a few kids in the stands wearing ‘Spanish Springs D-League’ T-shirts. Tipoff is at 7 p.m.