“I like the way they dribble up and down the court.” – Kurtis Blow
With summer winding down I didn’t want to let it get away without a post of one of my favorite summertime memories of my youth – basketball camp.
Google “camps for kids” and you’ll get everything from tennis camp to robotics camp to various church camps to dance and music camps. Summer is a time for vacations and fun and for shipping your child off for a week or two to do something he or she enjoys.
For me, back in the 80’s, Jerry Jobe Basketball Camp was usually the highlight of my summer. It was one week (sometimes I attended two weeks) filled with nothing but basketball from Sunday night through Friday at noon. There were none of these “team camps” and sponsored AAU teams criss-crossing the country all summer long playing in different tournaments. Those were just in their early stages. For the most part, it was just basketball camps tailored to the individual and developing your skills.
Jerry Jobe was a close family friend and legendary coach in Oklahoma when I started attending his camps. My dad had served under Jerry as an assistant at Southwestern Oklahoma College in Weatherford, Oklahoma, where I was born. Jerry would later be inducted into the Oklahoma basketball coaches hall of fame as well as the hall of fames at both Southwestern and Oklahoma Christian University, where I first started attending his camps.
“Basketball has always been my thing. I like Magic, Bird, and Bernard King.”
There were typically three three week sessions (three weeks for girls and three weeks for boys), and you had to be 10 years old to attend. The first time I attended was 1980, and I was the youngest kid there at only 9. Because of the closeness of our two families I was allowed to attend a year early. I stayed in the dorms that week with my dad, who was working the camp (the camps had multiple coaches and college players working them), and at that time was also the head coach at Northern Oklahoma Junior College in Tonkawa, Oklahoma.
The camp was held on the campus of Oklahoma Christian College (now Oklahoma Christian University) in Edmond, Oklahoma, where Jerry was head coach from 1975-1983. During that time, his OCC teams won 79% of their games, and were some of the best teams in the nation. That fact attracted hundreds of kids every summer to his camps.
That first year and the next few years, everyone knew me as “Duke” or “Dukester” or “lil Duke.” Duke is my middle name (my mom’s family name) and what the Jobes enjoyed calling me, so they had “Duke” printed on the back of my two Jerry Jobe basketball shirts. There was usually a red one and a white one and those were used for “league games” during the afternoon.
“I like slam dunks, it takes me to the hoop. My favorite play is the alley-oop.”
In addition to the t-shirts, everyone also received a brightly colored red, white, and blue rubber basketball with the camp name on it (they were OCC Eagle grey and purple in the early days when we were still at OCC). Those balls were used for our morning drills intended to improve ball-handling, passing, and shooting skills.
After Jerry left OCC in 1983, the camp was moved to Chickasha (where Jerry had spent many years as a high school coach) and onto the campus of USAO (University of Sciences & Arts Oklahoma). Instead of dorms, we had the awesomeness of staying in a motel where right before bed we’d turn the thermostat down so low that frost would form on the windows. The camp bussed us from the motel to the cafeteria and gym on campus every day.
After breakfast our day began with a variety of ball-handling drills and various stations to improve all aspects of our game. The afternoon was reserved for league games where every team would play two full games every day, and the evening was for more drills and contests including free throw shooting, one vs. one, and three vs. three.
Also during the afternoons every year we watched the same videos (on a projector) of shooting instructor George Lehmann. Lehmann was a New Jersey native that had spent about 7-8 seasons in the old ABA during the 60’s and early 70’s. Afterwards he formed a company with his brother Austin and they began conducting clinics with George demonstrating shooting and Austin showcasing his ball-handling skills.
(George played one season with the ABA’s Memphis Tams. Remember them? No one does, but they did exist! His instructional shooting videos existed and we used to watch them on an old school projector like the one above.)
The thing about those instructional videos was that they were edited perfectly and never showed George missing a shot unless he was doing it on purpose to make a point. There were times when I was first attending camp that I just thought “this guy never missed!”
When I look back now at some of the footage I realize that this guy didn’t miss very much, but he did have a little editing help along the way. Here’s a youtube clip from one of George’s videos where he’s talking about the most important step in shooting the basketball – keeping the elbow straight. And remember – “practice makes permanent!”
There was also the “Eagle ball-handling drill” which in itself was a contest against the clock and against all of the other campers. It was a drill comprised of five different moves culminating with raising the ball above your head to signify you were finished. I remember the fastest time being just under 20 seconds one summer by a guy named Buck Jenkins who was 2-3 years older than me. There were qualifying rounds multiple times every day, and if you had one of the fastest times you qualified for the finals on Friday morning. The winner of Friday’s mornings finals between all of the qualifiers determined the week’s “best ball-handler” award. I think I won it one week in my final year of attending in 1987 though I could never get to sub 20 seconds.
Friday morning is when all the parents could attend and all of the finals were conducted to determine the winners of the week’s contests. The Eagle/Jerry Jobe ball-handling drill, the free throw shooting contest, the finals of the one vs. one and three vs. three contests, and then the league championship games in each league were conducted all leading up to the presentation of awards and trophies just before camp was dismissed.
I also worked the girls’ camp one week during the summer heading into my junior year of high school with four other high school players from around the area. I helped run drills and refereed the games during the afternoon. I had my best camp personally as a camper later that same summer winning the free throw shooting contest, the Eagle ball-handling drill, the one vs. one competition and the overall “Mr. Basketball” award.
The next summer (before my senior season) I was primed for a big week or two of camp, but that all came to a crashing halt when I injured my achilles tendon during summer league play with my Norman High teammates. Doctor’s orders forced me to rest and ice it for the next few weeks which basically ended my summer league season and nixed any chances I had at attending camp. So I really never got to properly finish my Jerry Jobe Basketball Camp career since that was the last eligible summer for me to attend as a player, and that was truly a disappointment to me at that time.
(Jerry Jobe (far left) during his induction into the Oklahoma Christian HOF in 2007.)
I’m not sure how many more years the Jerry Jobe basketball camp existed after I finished. Individual camp numbers were on the decline and more focus was being put on summer leagues and team camps. Jerry never got back into coaching either, instead taking a job with the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association, which he worked for until his retirement in 1996. Jerry and his wife Laura Beth have resided and still continue enjoying retirement living in Norman, Oklahoma.
I’ll forever be grateful for the memories of those hot summers and un air-conditioned gyms attending camp in the early years with my dad and then later as a high school player. I made a lot of friends those weeks, had a ton of fun, made many memories, and it made me into a better basketball player.
(Outside the motel where the campers stayed with fellow campers on the right Miles Moorman and Steve Carpenter. In the left picture is my little sis Kari and my best friend, fellow camper, and “Spirit Award” winner Barry Blanton. Pics from summer 1985)
“To the hoop ya’ll, it’s basketball!”
Today’s music video is that from a song that we heard multiple times every day of the week during camp. In my head it seems like this song was played at least 10 times a day (and maybe it was) in the gym during our ball-handling and stations sessions in the mornings and evenings. It was always playing during our free-throw shooting contests.
The song was released by “The Breaks” artist Kurtis Blow in 1984, and was an instant success particularly in the basketball playing community.
The video is part “Westside Story,” and part kung fu fighting. It features a 7 or 8 foot goal and a lot of non-basketball players. It’s a hilariously bad video, but it’s also very radically 80’s in terms of clothing and hair styles. I don’t even care how bad it is, I still love it. Featuring a brief cameo by The Fat Boys at the very end as well, here is Mister Kurtis Blow and the iconic song and video to “Basketball”
We love that basssketballlll…
Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed your summer camp when you were younger!