BURBANK — Even without a basketball in hand, it didn’t take long for a throng of eager youngsters to work up a sweat inside the spacious McCambridge Park gymnasium early Friday evening.
Instead of taking jump shots and grabbing rebounds immediately, a group of about 55 participants who attended the 14th annual MVP Summer Basketball Camp found themselves in the middle of a series of calisthenics before working on the proper footwork needed to play textbook defense.
It came with a purpose — to have each camper prepared to go through a series of drills under the supervision of camp coordinator Mike Graceffo.
“We want them to be ready for anything we do in the camp,” said Graceffo, who serves as Burbank Park, Recreation and Community Services coordinator and has coached multiple sports in town for about 35 years. “You put them to the test and try to help them improve in some way in one or more drills.
“I’ve coached sports for a long time and I love doing it. You teach them different things and look to see how they pick up the instruction we give them. We teach them the fundamentals and we want them to have fun at the same time.”
The event, geared for ages 9-14 and featuring mostly Burbank residents, will continue Saturday and conclude Sunday. Graceffo said he tries to weave basketball with a variety of other activities. Among them are relays, a free-throw shooting contest with trophies to the winners and raffles. After the campers endure a series of drills, they spend most of the last hour of each session taking part in scrimmages. Following the conclusion of the camp, participants are handed a certificate of participation and a personalized assessment book covering the camper's strengths and things they need to address.
There’s plenty to learn while being taught by Graceffo and his assistants each day.
“You give a kid a ball and it’s there chance to be creative,” said Graceffo, who runs a similar camp in December. “It’s a lot like painting a picture.
“Everybody picks up a ball and just wants to shoot. There are other things you can do well, like passing, footwork and rebounding. All of those things are very important. We try to do a good job at helping them learn and become complete players.”
The campers came ready to pick up pointers Friday shortly after Graceffo gathered them in a huddle near midcourt. Many of the participants attended the event in previous summers.
Among those were Anthony Chiaravalle of Burbank.
Chiaravalle, 12, said Graceffo’s communication skills help make the learning curve smoother.
“He knows the sport and he teaches it well,” Chiaravalle said. “He wants to make sure you are understanding what’s he’s teaching and he goes over drills slowly so you know how to do it the right way.”
Chris Johnson, 10, made his third appearance at the camp.
Johnson of Burbank said the MVP Summer Camp stands out because of the individualized coaching it’s geared to offer.
“I came here looking to get better with my shooting and passing,” Johnson said. “Coach Graceffo can break things down and give you tips.
“He’s a very good coach and he does a good job running the camp.”