Campus Life

Basketball academy endeavours to fill niche

For Dave Adams, coach of the Pronghorns men's basketball team, there's no great mystery as to how he will get the Horns back in the national spotlight. It starts and ends by filling his roster with talented southern Alberta players – and to do that, the Horns must take a leadership role in the development of those kids.

"The University of Lethbridge Pronghorns have the responsibility of being the flagship program for basketball in southern Alberta, and we take that commitment extremely seriously," says Adams.

To that end, Adams and the Horns are ironing out the details for the Pronghorn Basketball Academy – a weekly training opportunity designed to fill what has become a missing link in the development of basketball players in southern Alberta. Gone from the local area are the Basketball Canada Centres for Performance and the Basketball Alberta Regional Training Centres, leaving talented, competitive young basketball players in need of the proper coaching and guidance at a critical stage in their development.

"We think this will really fill a need in the community right now," says Adams, who expects to target kids in Grades 5 to 7. "We still need to talk with the schools and do a little research but from what we understand, once kids hit Grade 8 and 9, there are good opportunities for them to play, it's that upper elementary, early middle-school age where they need some further coaching and an opportunity to play at a competitive level."

Adams need look no further than the Horns Athletic Department for an example of hitting a kid at the right stage of his development.

"Ryan Hall's (Pronghorn Athletics Manager) a prime example of a guy I distinctly remember torturing in a Grade 6 basketball camp," laughs Adams. "You could tell at the time he was a great, coachable kid who had tons of skill. Although he took a path that was an unusual one, playing his way through baseball first, he ended up being the starting point guard on a team that went to a national semifinal."

Hall had other interests and pursued a baseball scholarship in the United States, but he eventually came back to basketball, something that may not have happened had he not been nurtured in the game at an early age.

The proposed academy would begin in January and feature weekly workouts, likely on Monday or Tuesday evenings, and would be run by Adams and his Pronghorns players. The net effect is twofold, the Horns help groom future players and connect with the community at the same time.

"This is a way for them to give back to the sport, and it's a huge part of our commitment to engaging with our community," says Adams. "If we want to have fans come to our games and we really want to have people in southern Alberta support us, then we have to make sure it's a two-way street."

Should the academy prove to be successful, not only will it help the game and the region's aspiring players, it'll benefit the Horns down the road.

"If we look historically at the success of Pronghorns men's basketball, in times where we've had national prominence, it was built on the basis of good local players who decided to stay here and play for the Horns," says Adams. "We're trying to develop the future basketball star who will put on the blue and white some day."