High Rise hosts Pro-Experience day at St. Luke’s
Published 5:10 pm, Tuesday, August 2, 2016
NEW CANAAN—Since its inception in 2011 the High Rise basketball player development program has grown from a single summer camp to over 20 different programs year-round.
So, when the opportunity arose to add another wrinkle in 2016 co-founder Drew Gladstone jumped all over it.
Along with co-founder Bobby Spezzano, Gladstone set up a ‘Pro-Experience’ camp for kids in the area, held last Saturday at St. Luke’s High School in New Canaan.
The camp, for boys in third grade through high school, focused on learning skills and drills taught to professionals, and featured several of those pros leading the way.
Jerian Grant, former star at Notre Dame and current Chicago Bull, headlined a group that also included two overseas professionals with local roots; Chris Evans, a graduate of Stamford High who plays professionally in Germany, and Evan Kelley who plays in Latvia by way of Norwalk.
“He came in and really submersed himself in the drills,” Gladstone said of Grant. “He worked with the kids, talked to the kids, he’s definitely humble and really participated and it was a blast for the kids around here to be taught by guys they’ve watched on TV.”
Evans, who is a critical part of the High Rise program in Stamford (run out of the Stamford Athletic Club), said getting professional players to interact personally with the kids makes the High Rise camp an easy sell.
“It’s very unique,” Evans said. “That will be one of our strong selling points, myself as a professional European player is one thing but to have a guy like Jerian Grant come in for a day and give his piece on how hard he’s had to work and the sacrifices he’s had to make to get to this point, it’s cool. Seeing how happy the kids are interacting with him makes this camp and this day worth it.”
The pros and other counselors led the kids in drills designed to mimic those of the NBA and used the day to instill fundamentals taught by those that have reached the highest level of the game.
“It was just a great day,” Gladstone said. “Everything we did was inspired by the NBA; our warmup was inspired by the NBA Combine and our skill stuff was all stuff you would see in the NBA. We don’t expect them to turn into pros right after camp but it gives the kids something to think about.
“It’s a new look and way of thinking and now when they watch an NBA game they can say, ‘hey, I did that at camp.’ It’s a special thing and we’re happy to be able to put it on for kids around here.”
“We did a lot of high pace NBA stuff and we really got to see what it was like to be a pro for a day,” Magnus said. “It was a lot of fun, it’s a really good opportunity for kids in this area to bring basketball back to New Canaan.”
It’s not just the players on the court that were learning as the day went on, but also the coaches, who had to adjust from group-to-group in channeling each lesson into an age-specific platform.
“You go by age group,” Kelley said. “With the smaller kids, there’s a select few that know the game but it’s a lot of encouragement; I’m learning how to be a better teacher so it’s a learning curve for everybody.”
That potential to learn, from both the coaches and campers, is why Evans said it’s easy to lend his time whenever Gladstone calls.
“At high rise, a lot of it is skills stuff,” Evans said. “At the beginning of every camp we have stations and real drills and things that challenge each kid at each level. It’s not just, come here and it’s a day care, and that’s a big part of the camps that I do like is that we’re actually teaching them and we see them evolve from Monday to Thursday.”
Aside from High Rise, Gladstone coaches the St. Luke’s varsity boys team, leading them to both the FAA and NEPSAC titles last season.
Between High Rise, its year-round camps and AAU/tournament teams and his St. Luke’s coaching duties Gladstone has plenty of basketball on his plate and he hopes that after its successful debut the Pro-Experience camp will turn into another staple of the program in the future.
“This was a great first experience,” Gladstone said. “This went really well, all the kids enjoyed it so we’d like to be able to do this at least once, if not more, every year.”