John Lucas on a mission to mold young talent

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To say that John Lucas has his hands on the pulse of developing young basketball talent is an understatement. Lucas has three national camp sites — Chicago, Houston and Hampton, Virginia.

The former NBA coach, player and college all-american has now invited players as young as fifth and sixth grade into his Future of the Game camps. Lucas was in Chicago for this weekend’s fifth and sixth grade camp which was held at the South Shore YMCA.

Lucas dispelled the perception that European players receive better coaching at an earlier age than Americans.

“I know how that got started, but it is not true,” Lucas said. “Check out our records and you’ll see that every time our junior players compete internationally they win by 30 or more points.

“Once you have a full grasp of the fundamentals and have the proper foundation incorporated into your game, you will know what to do and what not to do, and always fully understand how to play the game.”

In past years, Lucas’ camps stopped at seventh and eighth grade, but because many younger players came to his camps he saw a growing need to give them a camp of their own. “Some of the young players were able to compete skill-wise and could do the drill, but they were not strong enough physically,” said Lucas. “It was better to allow them to develop and play in their own age group.”

Judging by the overwhelming response, he is on the right track. Players represented the entire midwest, along with Alabama, Arizona, California, Pennsylvania and Florida. Former Vocational and NBA All-Star Juwan Howard’s son, Jett, traveled from Miami to participate at the camp.

The camp was divided into two sessions each day, with extensive drills in the early session and team play in the second session.

The campers were also given pop quizzes where they were asked explain or demonstrate what they learned each day. Lucas said he was very pleased with what he witnessed.

“The kids were enthusiastic, eager to learn and very receptive to being challenged. It is very important to reach them early, so they can develop their skills with a full understanding of the game.”

Several players opened a lot of eyes as people over the weekend. One of the players of note was Kevin Miller of Chicago.

“I come from a basketball family and what my son has learned here in the past two days is unbelievable,” Miller’s mother Ayisa said. “My son is fortunate to have an opportunity to be around John Lucas and be a part of this camp.”

Other players who distinguished themselves this weekend were: Jalen Butler of Northbrook; Jainaz Cameron of Lima, Ohio; Jaylen Drane of Calumet City; Jalen Griffith of Chicago; Connor Hickman of Bloomington, Indiana; Jaden Hameed of Northfield, Ohio; Christian Henry of Chicago; Jett Howard of Miami; Khalil Luster of Lima; Rodney Walker, Jr. of Decatur; Kenton Wright of Chicago.

Camp director Brian Merritt summed up the camp experience the best way. “Teaching bad basketball is a billion dollar business, but John is making sure his camp is doing it the right way”

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