Military Magnet camp teaches youth more than basketball skills
“One ball, one sound,” Charles Overall shouts out in the gym at Military Magnet Academy. In reality, there are 60 basketballs bouncing on the hardwood. But the youngsters who range in age from 8 to 18 make it sound like there’s only one (albeit very loud) ball, even as they are directed by the tweet of a whistle to spin around or change hands.
Advantage Basketball Camps is a national program, and Overall, his wife Dr. Kecia Overall and other staff members held court at Military Magnet over the past week, working with the youngsters on basketball and life skills. Their goal is to make the youngsters better basketball players and better citizens.
“It’s not just about basketball, but it’s also about teamwork, showing kids how to accept adversity, winning and losing gracefully, learning how to work together,” Kecia Overall explained.
Michael Breedlove, the varsity basketball coach at Military Magnet, and Kevin Hollinshead, who is a volunteer coach for the middle school team, were looking for ways to help the youngsters of the community and discovered the Advantage Basketball Camps.
But the cost of a camp does not come cheap, $225 for the five-day, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. session. And many of the youngsters in the Military Magnet neighborhood would not be able to afford such a camp. So the coaches began approaching business partners to help sponsor the youngsters.
“Three individuals really stepped up and slammed a home run,” Hollinshead said. “Sheriff Al Cannon went out and sponsored 19 kids. In North Charleston, Ed Barfield (director of the North Charleston Recreation Department) sponsored 18 kids. Rep. Chip Limehouse sent out letters to help us raise money. In less than three weeks, we pulled together $4,000 to $5,000.”
If you talk to any of the sponsors, they are quick to point out the benefits of exposing a youngster to athletics, giving them something constructive to do. Hollinshead told of one of his youngsters who was going to play basketball, came across a fight and was shot.
“I told that story to Chip Limehouse and he said we have to do something to give kids constructive training and he rolled up his sleeves and went to work,” Hollinshead said.
“All organized activities are so important for our youth, especially in the summertime,” said Lt. Dan Isgett of the Charleston County Sherriff’s Department. “It gives them a chance to be supervised, to be mentored and to learn life skills.”
Rashawn Smith, 12, is a rising seventh grader at Military Magnet. He said the camp has helped improve his basketball fundamentals and given him an opportunity to play and work with other kids his age.
D’Angelo Rivers, 17 and a junior at Military Magnet, said he hopes to play college basketball but realizes he has weaknesses, a sentiment echoed by Amyah Taylor, 17 and a senior at Fort Dorchester.
“My coach suggested this camp,” Taylor said. “When I go to college I’m not going to be a post player. My ball-handling needs to get better if I want to play in college.
“They have a lot of drills that will help but you have to do the work. You can’t come here and expect to get better. You have to go home and do it, too. If you work, you will get better.”
Listening to their comments, Breedlove feels the camp will lead to a stronger basketball program at Military Magnet.
“We are trying to bring our program on a par with the big AAAA programs, but in order to compete with them I have to have skilled kids. I don’t have 2,000 kids to choose from, I’ve got 146,” Breedlove said.
“Getting together with Advantage, this is a chance to bring our program up to par so we can compete for championships every year. A lot of kids come to us missing the basic skills. They know how to come into the gym and shoot and run, but they have to know the intricacies of playing basketball.”