Aug. 29, 2011
Although things tend to slow down in Pullman during the summer, the Washington State University men's basketball team didn't. The Cougars instead took advantage of being in town for the summer, participating in several activities to help reach out to the Palouse community.
Included in the Cougars' `2011 Summer Palouse Tour' were putting on the Cougar Basketball Camps, volunteering for Palouse Habitat for Humanity, participating at the Learning Center's Sports' Week and joining in the festivities at the National Lentil Festival.
"Building the house was pretty fun," guard Mike Ladd, who participated in all the activities, said. "I liked working with the kids at the community center too. And I really liked the camp, being able to coach. I liked having the kids call me `Coach Mike', it was probably my favorite."
The team held three basketball camps in late June and early July, Elite Camp (June 18-19), Day Camp (June 21-24) and Team Camp (June 28-July 1). The camps brought in over 675 boys and girls from not just the Palouse, Region, but the entire Pacific Northwest.
After Elite Camp kicked off the summer, Cougar Basketball Day Camp brought in 85 campers from the Palouse area. All of the campers had the opportunity to develop their basketball skills alongside the Cougar men's basketball student-athletes and coaches.
"Each summer I enjoy holding camps here on campus," WSU Head Coach Ken Bone said. "Day Camp is especially fun as it gives our staff and players the opportunity to interact with boys and girls of younger ages as they continue to develop their basketball skills."
Following Day Camp came Team Camp, which attracted 58 teams, freshman through varsity, from all over the Northwest, including Alaska and Canada. The teams were separated into four different levels, large school varsity, small school varsity, junior varsity and freshmen teams. Within those levels the teams competed against each other in full-court games, complete with officials, throughout the week.
"Team Camp is an important part of the summer for our staff and we were thrilled with this year's turnout of nearly 60 teams," Bone said. "Camp is a unique environment which brings schools from all over the Northwest together and allows for matchups between teams that have previously never played against one another. The level of competition at camp this year was high and it's fun to see teams really competing throughout the week. It's also a great opportunity for us to showcase our program and promote basketball in the state of Washington."
The Cougars continued giving back to the community by participating in Palouse Habitat for Humanity July 9, helping to build a house in nearby Uniontown. The men's basketball team joined other teams and Athletics staff at the site as numerous tasks were accomplished, including, but not limited to, the installation of windows and a sliding glass door, the covering of the outside of the house with house wrap, and construction of the roof. The student-athletes worked alongside the woman who the house is being built for, Sarah Keller, who will live in the home with her two sons.
"It's good for us to get out in the community," guard Marcus Capers said. "People really appreciate stuff like this, us taking from the little free time we have, to go out and help. Anytime we're given the opportunity to do something like this, I'm willing to help out and so are my teammates. It was a good experience."
Later, on July 28, Ladd, forward Patrick Simon and operations assistant, Tim Marrion, made appearances at the Pullman Learning Center located at the Gladdish Cultural Community Center. Ladd and Simon spent time with the kids, grades kindergarten through fourth, meeting the children and teaching them basketball fundamentals. Simon taught the kids shooting, while Ladd worked on ball handling with the youngsters.
Both also stressed the importance of school and balancing class-work with their basketball careers. Ladd elaborated, telling the kids that when he was young his mother would not allow him to play basketball until all his homework was completed. Simon added that although he loves basketball, he would not have been given the opportunity to play at the collegiate level if it weren't for him keeping his grades up through high school.
"We had a great time interacting with the local kids, while teaching them some of the basic fundamentals of basketball," Marrion said. "It's good to see our players having an active presence locally as they understand the positive impact they can potentially have throughout the community. We are planning many more community-related events during the upcoming season."
The WSU men's basketball team continued its involvement Aug. 19 and 20 at the National Lentil Festival in downtown Pullman. Student-athletes participated in the parade, handing out WSU Athletics schedule cards, t-shirts and basketballs Saturday, after they spent an hour at the street fair signing autographs for members of the community Friday. The team also took turns running the pop-a-shot activity, competing against fans in a basketball shooting contest.
"The Lentil Festival is always a fun time and is an event that is unique to Pullman," senior forward Charlie Enquist said. "It's a great opportunity to get out in the community to interact with our fans and give back to the people that support us."
D.J. Shelton was one of five newcomers to get involved with the community this summer, participating in Habitat for Humanity and the Lentil Festival after arriving for summer school in Pullman.
"This summer was my first experience in Pullman," Shelton said. "It was nice to get out in the community and meet a lot of different people, while they were able to get to know me too. I look forward to seeing all the Cougar fans come out and support us this basketball season."
The Cougars continue to appear throughout the community even though the school year has begun. They appeared at Cougar Fan Appreciation Day at Martin Stadium, Saturday, Aug. 27, will sign autographs in downtown Pullman Friday, Sept. 2 and participate in WSU Family Day on Mooberry Track Saturday, Sept. 10. The men's basketball program will also hold two free kids' clinics this season, Saturday, Oct. 1 and Saturday, Dec. 17. More information on those clinics will be available at www.wsucougars.com.