Summer Camps a Big Success

Daniel Orton enjoys spending time at the Thunder Youth Basketball Camps so much that he’s made three visits already this summer.

The Bishop McGuinness High School standout holds a special place for expanding and improving the game of basketball in Oklahoma. During Wednesday’s session, Orton stopped by to answer the campers’ questions, play some hoops and take pictures, giving the camp a shot of energy and an extra gear of fun.

“(I like) to show my face, to get out in the community and work with these kids,” Orton said. “The fact that I can show my face and get out and reach out to these kids, that means a lot to me and to them.”

In congruence with the Thunder’s overall efforts, the organization’s players have made extra efforts to get out in the community, to work with kids and help grow the game of basketball on all levels. Before the Thunder arrived in Oklahoma City five years ago, Oklahoma was mostly known as a football state. Since then the Thunder have built ties with the community on many levels, with the organization and players doing their best to encourage playing the game of basketball to all age groups, with the aid of the Thunder Youth Basketball Camps, presented by Cox Communications.

“I’m doing what I can to try and just better the basketball community here,” Orton explained. “The Thunder is doing their job… These camps here are geared to help players get better.”

Led by Thunder Youth Basketball Coordinator Keeton Peery, the 10 weeks of camp this summer have given kids a great chance to get on the court, work on their skills and come away with some goodies.

Each camper received a Week in Review DVD, a t-shirt, a $10 gift card to the Thunder Shop, a basketball and an evaluation from one of the coaches. In addition, Thunder players have made eight appearances thus far to the Thunder Events Center, Santa Fe Family Life Center, Mid-American Christian University, Carl Alberts High School, Casady School and Yukon High School. The Thunder also held a camp at Tulsa’s Bishop Kelly High School, and one more camp remains on the schedule for next week at the Thunder Events Center.

The most important part the summer for the kids, however, is the instruction the 900 campers will have gotten over the ten weeks of camp.

“We’re getting the fundamentals down,” Peery said. “We’re always stressing the basics. A lot of times, kids that age, they’re playing summer basketball or with AAU programs. With things like that, they have coaches that aren’t always the most qualified. So they miss a lot of those fundamental basics.”

“We’re getting them in here, we work hard with them and make sure they push themselves,” Peery continued. “We’re just proud of these kids for coming in here, working hard and sweating every day and getting better.”

The personalized attention that results from having a coach for every ten campers helps the Thunder Youth Basketball Camp be a valuable experience as young players learn both individual and team-based skills. Peery has been at the helm during these camps, but he’s leaned on his coaches who have embraced the spirit of giving back to the younger generations of Oklahoma basketball players.

“They make my job so much easier because they’re so fantastic,” Peery said. “All these guys are from the community and they have a lot of pride in growing up here and playing basketball here. They know what it takes to be successful because most of them have played college basketball and some have even played higher levels of basketball. They take a lot of pride in it, in teaching it and putting those values in these kids.”