The repetitive, spotty thunk of basketball dribbles filled Immaculate Heart’s gym like a first-year drummer hammering a trap kit.
Aberrant layups skated off the backboard glass, while their net-bound cousins — borne of better technique and possibly a complete breakfast — marked the school’s first foray into summer hoops skills camp, as plenty of eager kids turned out to polish their game.
And just three days into the weeklong foray, fifth-grader Nicolas Van Ert’s skills showed some panache.
The 11-year-old beat out several older kids during the previous day’s shooting competition — much to his awe — and by Thursday, his shots from the key sank regularly.
“Yeah, I’m really, really surprised,” Van Ert offered of his victory.
Whether to elementary students, or the handful of older high school kids in attendance, basketball clinics play several roles — part feeder camp, part school recruiter and part summer babysitter, said Chuck Davis, Immaculate Heart’s girls’ hoops coach and clinic organizer.
“If I was as flexible as this kid, I’d be doing something else for a living,” Davis laughed, as Van Ert continued to make shots.
Wiring kids up for their next level of play was one latent summer motive for the hoops mentors at Magee Road’s end. It’s important, since many of the attendees stood a real shot at making small-school squads — even a few 4A and 5A rosters — said the clinic’s skills coach Herb Williams.
“When they get to their teams, you can usually see the kids that went to camps,” Williams said. “They’re a little bit further ahead, fundamentally, than the ones that didn’t.”
Taking a break from a pickup game across the gymnasium, Immaculate Heart senior point guard Jessica Flayer said she’d used the clinic to scope out incoming freshmen that she might have to dish to next season.
“It’s kind of good to get them ready for the next year, to know what to expect from their game and help them understand ours,” Flayer said.
Flayer’s scenario likely rings in the minds of veteran players across the area. But as coaches like Williams — whose resume canvasses squads across the Northwest — take time out to nurture the next batch of shooters during the off-season, it’s clear they’re getting something out of it, too.
Pusch Ridge boys’ basketball coach Robert Carmona agreed as he prepped for the Oro Valley skills clinic he runs at Wilson K-8’s gymnasium.
“For me, I just like teaching basketball. It’s my sport, it’s what I do,” Carmona said.
During this year’s trial run of the late-afternoon program, Carmona hopes to build enough of a rapport that working parents can tote kids to the year-round clinic that he’s envisioned.
Carmona’s current 60-minute skills sessions offer youngsters bite-sized lessons that fit their attention spans. At Immaculate Heart’s four-hour installments, boredom is a killer when 30 youngsters bounce around the court, Williams said.
“We can teach them all the fundamentals we want, but if you don’t have fun things like ‘Beat the Clock’ and ‘Knockout,’ they hate it,” Williams said.
Williams often uses the buzzer-busting game called “Beat the Clock” to keep kids in tune. Players inbound the ball from the backcourt with seven seconds on the clock and have to sink the bucket.
Those who swish make it to a six-second round, and so on. As of Thursday morning, the record was four seconds.
That was, until incoming Immaculate Heart freshman Michael Phillips nailed a 40-footer as the buzzer cackled.
Phillips wasn’t quite sure what to make of the three-second shot that drew a few cheers.
“I don’t know,” Phillips supposed. “Lucky?”
• July 7-11, August 4-8
• 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
• Ages 6 to 14
• Members $70, public $80
Oro Valley, at Wilson K-8
• June 9-27
• 5 to 6 p.m.
• Grades K-8
• $8 per hour
Catalina Foothills High School
• June 16-July 2, July 7-23
• 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
• Grades 1 to 9
• $50 to $100, times and fee vary by age