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Camp seeks to build a foundation so kids can improve on their own turf

by: JOHN WILLIAM HOWARD - Brisyn Maller of Scappoose looks for an easy layup on Wednesday afternoon at the annual Scappoose Youth Basketball Camp. Maller was one of 115 campers who received training in all facets of basketball.Back in his even more youthful days, Ethan Marcantonio remembers what it was like to look up to someone – literally.

“I went to camp at [the University of Portland] when they had their players come, and it was really cool because the players were so much bigger than me,” said Marcantonio, who will be a senior this fall. “I was like ‘wow, I'd like to be like them someday.'”

Wish granted.

Now, the tables have turned. Marcantonio banded together with Tribe head coach Rahim Tufts and a collection of Scappoose players to put on the program's annual youth camp from June 16-19 at Scappoose High School, and spent most of his time looking somewhere around his knees.

Once the vertically-challenged youngster, Marcantonio now stands at six feet, eight inches and towers over even the tallest of the campers.

“It's pretty cool having all the little kids look up to me and they all come up to me and ask me – like this morning, they were all asking me ‘can you dunk? Dunk it!'” he said. “And yesterday, Chase [Johnson] and I had a little dunk off going on for them. It's pretty fun, I like it.”

It was the largest youth camp the program has put on in Tufts' tenure, totaling 115 kids between the morning and evening sessions of the four-day camp. That number has ballooned according to Tufts, who said the camp has been as low as 24 kids, but has raised to high 50s, 60s, 70s and the massive jump for this summer.

In spite of the extra effort and bustling gym bursting with eager faces, it's something Tufts sees as highly important.

by: JOHN WILLIAM HOWARD - Lane Smith of Hillsboro attempts to dribble past his instructor as part of the Scappoose youth camp on June 18. The camp's attendance has ballooned in recent years.“It's a lot of work, but it's enjoyable,” said Tufts. “I love to coach, I love being around kids. That's why I became a teacher.”

The camp is an opportunity for the kids to learn about an active lifestyle, regardless of basketball implications, and is a major way for the high school kids to invest back into the community and learn to be a positive role model for the youth in the city.

Though simply being active and energetic is the main idea, Tufts has an agenda: build a foundation of basketball fundamentals the kids will be able to hang on to for the rest of their lives.

“All those stations, they're doing what we call driveway drills,” said Tufts, motioning to the various groupings of kids around the high school gym. “It's stuff that they can do in their own driveway, hopefully, on their own time. After this week, they'll be a little bit better as a basketball player, but we all know it takes time in the offseason.”

The older players (7th-9th grades) worked on countless different, but simplistic drills. On one end, kids practiced faking out a defender, stepping over and shooting layups. On the other, they worked on setting picks and using screens. Over in the corner, one group of kids battled to get past a member of the varsity squad to score.

The basics of basketball – shooting, dribbling, defense, passing, etc. – were all there, and there were many excited faces among the throng on the court. Over all the babbling of shrill voices, though, could be heard the occasional shout from Tufts as he congratulated a player on a good shot and continually pushed his group to get better each time down the floor.

“I want to know these kids,” said Tufts. “I want to know them when they are youth and when I visit the elementary schools it's pretty awesome walking in the halls. They light up and they wave at me and they come to our home basketball games. It's created a whole culture in this town for basketball – the positive relationships and a positive basketball program.”

Most of the campers are more than a handful of years away from high school basketball, but that doesn't matter for Tufts. His involvement goes far beyond the varsity squad and his idea of a strong high school program from top to bottom. During basketball season, he talked about wanting the junior varsity and freshmen teams to be champions as well, and with a quick visit to the youth camp, it's apparent the dream goes all the way to kindergarten. Few young basketball players in Scappoose aren't familiar with Tufts, and the familiarity goes a long way toward making the high school transition easier.

“You've already built some trust. They're walking in – hopefully – excited to play for us and excited to be a part of the basketball program, knowing that it's a privilege,” said Tufts. “When they put on the jersey, they take great pride in that.”

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