June 23, 2009
By Richard Stevens -- Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
It's no secret that "elite" summer camps are a recruiting tool with a two-way door for a coach and an athlete.
Elite camps are valuable windows for a basketball program to check out young talent and see that talent in a structured environment controlled by the coach and his staff.
These high-level camps also are important opportunities for talented athletes looking for a future home for their budding basketball skills. You impress the coach with work ethic, attitude and skills and you just might land a scholarship.
More than a few Lobos over the years have come to Don Flanagan's Lobo Elite Camp and made a lasting impression on the University of New Mexico women's basketball coach. You can go back about ten years ago to ex-Lobo Lindsey Arndt of Sandia High or go back a shorter time to current Lobo and sophomore-to-be Lauren Taylor.
Both of those talented athletes probably sealed the deal on their scholarships by impressing Flanagan at his elite came -- a camp that runs Monday thru Wednesday this week at the Rudy Davalos Basketball Center.
"If you go back each year, there are probably one or two kids from my elite camp that we end up recruiting," said Flanagan. "It's a tool for us to see talent.
"We watch to see how they listen, how they interact with other campers, how hard they work in practice situations. You get to see them on more of a personal level and that helps you in recruiting, too, because you are recruiting the whole person. These camps are a tool for everyone and top players always are encouraged to come to camps by every program."
Arndt made an impression on the Lobos at an early age by coming to Lobo camps. Taylor made a solid impression later in her high school career by shining at a UNM elite camp. Ex-Lobo Mandi Moore also was a star at a UNM Elite Camp and validated what the Lobos already knew about Moore -- that she could compete on a high level.
"When Mandi came to our camp, we were already very interested," said Flanagan. "She just reaffirmed that we needed to sign her.
"I think it's a great idea for a player to go to a university they are interested in. You can see how the coaches act and treat you in a coaching environment. You get to take a closer look at the school, the program, the area. I treat my camp like it's one of my practice sessions. They get to see what I'm like in a practice situation."
A lot of coaches throw out their best behavior at camps. With Flanagan, you get what you see: a laid-back teacher who emphasizes fundamentals and honest effort. It's also a needed break for most upper-level basketball players who have been specializing in their sport for years by playing on club teams that often emphasize games over skills.
"I didn't go to that many camps because I played AAU ball all summer," said Lobo senior-to-be Amy Beggin. "I think it's a good idea to go because it gives you a better feel for a coach and his philosophy. It also lets you meet players from that school and maybe some other players from the area who might be coming to that school."
At Flanagan's camp, it also brings you up close and personal with the basics of ball.
"I think kids today spend too much time playing and not enough time on the fundamentals," said Flanagan. "Now, I put in a lot of competitive drills, but even in those drills we are focusing on fundamental skills that are needed in the game.
"Some of these kids today play 70, 80 games in a summer and they don't always get to focus on their individual skills and needs. Here, they get to work more on their game. There are camps who just play games and we don't want to do what everybody else does. We start with fundamentals and then we give them some competitive opportunities toward the end of a day."
Beggin is one of the current Lobo players teaching at Flanagan's Elite Camp. She says being on the other end of the whistle gives her a different insight into the needs of the game.
"You get a different perspective," said the All-Mountain West Conference guard, "It reminds you of the importance of fundamentals, all the little things you need to do right.
"It's also interesting to see the different skills at the different ages and then you get to watch throughout the week how they carry out some of the things you have taught them."
The Lobo Elite Camp is the third of four UNM summer camps. The final camp is the Lobo Shooting Camp scheduled for August 3-5 at Johnson Center.