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Archive for Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Basketball hopefuls turn out for Bill Self Clinic

January 10, 2007

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While most kids unwrapped their presents on Christmas Day, some 500 kids received a bonus gift two days later by attending the 2006 Bill Self Basketball Clinic.

The annual holiday youth clinic ranged from third to eighth-graders, with both boys and girls attending. The campers were instructed by Kansas basketball players, coaches and staff.

Because of the high number of participants, the Horejsi and Robinson gymnasiums were also used. The kids worked on the basic fundamentals of basketball by participating in nine different areas, including shooting, dribbling, footwork, layups, defense, ball handling and passing.

Aubrey Del Vecchio attended the clinic for the first time and enjoyed the event.

"It was a lot of fun," she said.

Del Vecchio said she enjoyed the shooting drill, where KU assistant coach Kurtis Townsend instructed the kids to keep their elbows in tight so they would have good form when shooting the ball.

While Del Vecchio had fun shooting the ball, she also had fun at the other stations. She threw several nice bounce passes to her partner at the passing drill and chopped her feet and yelled out "Defense!" during defensive drills.

Del Vecchio mingled with her favorite player, Mario Chalmers and later, got many autographs from some other KU players.

Sophomore center Matt Kleinmann said he remembered coming to his first Kansas basketball holiday clinic in junior high.

"I was probably a little more competitive than everybody else, and probably a foot taller," Kleinmann said. "But I had fun with it."

Prior to the start of the clinic, Kleinmann challenged six of the campers to a little game of basketball. After some fancy dribbling by Kleinmann, he weaved through the defense for an easy score.

But on the next possession, with kids wrapped around both his feet and two more on his back, Kleinmann was overmatched and unable to get up a shot.

Kleinmann said he had fond memories like that at camp as a youngster, which made his break from school lots of fun.

"I just remember having fun, making your winter break really fun," he said.

Another KU player who had a great time at the clinic was 6-foot-11 junior center Sasha Kaun, who towered over the kids and instructed them on how to make a layup.

"Some of them come up and they're like 'Oh, he's so tall,'" Kaun said.

Kaun told the kids to take two steps and lay the ball gently off the glass. But that was much easier for Kaun to do, considering his two steps were the equivalent of four youth steps, and he was taller than the lowered basket, which made it just a tad easier for him to make layups.

"I always like working with little kids and stuff," Kaun said. "It's always fun. I like making them happy."

Like Kaun, another person who has brought smiles to many Kansas fans for the past few years is head coach Bill Self.

Self thought the attendance at the clinic was probably the biggest since he's been at Kansas, but unfortunately it created one little problem.

"Today there was such a big turnout that not all the kids were able to get all the autographs," Self said. "But it's the best way that we know the kids in the community can touch the players, except for camps in the summer."

While the summer camps are held in June for five days a week for two weeks, Self said the few hours the kids spent at the holiday clinic just wasn't enough time for the participants to improve their skills a lot. But he thought the clinic was a success and it could encourage the kids to play basketball.

"This little clinic isn't gonna guarantee a young player becoming a good player, but hopefully it gets them excited about ball," Self said. "And if they get excited about ball they'll work a lot harder at it. I think it was good for all kids at that young age."

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