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July 9, 2014

Conner teaches hoops, life at camp

TIFTON — If you were to try to follow the bouncing ball Wednesday morning at Tift County High, you might have a bit of trouble. There were many bouncing balls and they were everywhere. It was practically a requirement, as 42 boys and girls were running on hardwood, part of a basketball camp hosted by Julie Conner.

Conner and her Lady Devil player assistants worked with campers as young as pre-kindergarten and as old as sixth grade.

The skills taught at the camp included passing, dribbling, defense and shooting. It opened Tuesday and was scheduled to last through Thursday.

Mid-session Wednesday, Conner had all the kids sit while she gave them pointers for life.

"I was just like you, from Tifton, Ga., from Eldorado, and I wanted to play basketball," she said. Conner said she worked hard and received a scholarship to Georgia College and State University in Milledgeville to play. "A lot [of  my education] was paid for because of that orange ball."

She then asked for a show of hands of who was familiar with Alex Abbott, Tadric Jackson and Staceyanna Murrell. Conner told the campers how their hard work paid off in the Major League draft or scholarships, then pointed to Dee Dee DeShazer, who was assisting Wednesday. DeShazer, she told them, had received a basketball scholarship to Columbus State and had returned home to help with the camp.

Sports success was not her only focus. She told them they were still learning and growing and "you don't know what you're good at, yet," and their skills could be academic, athletic or something such as playing an instrument.

"You can do anything you want to do, but it's a lot of hard work," said Conner.

Conner also told them to eat their vegetables, limit caffeine, make good decisions, give 100 percent in everything and to "play hard, play smart and have fun."

Back on their feet, the participants went back to groups. Hot spot shooting was the next exercise of the day. Everyone was given a minute each to shoot from cone-marked places on the individual goals, making as many as possible. The youngest of them were given their own child-sized goal.

After hot spots, campers were given an opportunity to display all their newly-acquired skills in games of three-on-three or four-on-four.

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