LA CRESCENTA — For nearly as long as he's been coaching the boys' varsity basketball team at Crescenta Valley High during the winter months, Shawn Zargarian has also run Coach Z's Basketball Camp out of the Falcons gym one week out of the summer.
And, while the group of about 75 7-13 year olds that filled the gym this past week for the fifth installment of the camp is younger than Zargarian's Falcon charges, he runs the camp as if to prepare his pupils for what they might find at a CV High practice. After all, it's not unusual for patrons of Coach Z's Camp to don the Columbia and Navy Blue when they get a little older.
"It depends on their age group, as far as what kind of skill work we're doing, but we warm them up like our [high school] guys do, we put them through agility skills and stretch them out," said Zargarian, who is in his sixth year as Falcons Coach. "[There's] a lot of ball handling and a lot of balance stuff without the ball.
"We always incorporate four or five competitions a day because they love doing that."
In the mornings, campers rotated between stations for dribbling, rebounding and screening and the afternoons are mostly filled with scrimmaging, as well as classic competitions, such as knockout, a free-throw shooting drill.
For the finale on Friday, the bleachers were rolled out and the scoreboards lit up for games on center court in front of a cheering gallery of parents and family before an awards ceremony to wrap up the week.
"It's really fun, probably one of the best basketball camps I've been to," 11-year-old Trey Ballard of La Crescenta said. "They do a lot of competitions and we scrimmage at the end."
The connection between the camp and the Falcons basketball program is apparent in players like Cole Currie, who was a regular at Coach Z's before taking over the starting varsity point guard role as a freshman this past winter. But it's also reflected in the coaches and guest instructors Zargarian invites to share their expertise at the camp each summer
"It's a good group of my assistant coaches, some of my former players, some of my current players," said Zargarian, who counted recent CV graduates Matt Oliver, Eric Strangis and Eric Yoo among this year's coaches.
"[This camp] teaches you a lot of stuff and there's people who played high school [basketball] helping you," Ballard said.
Harvard-Westlake boys' basketball assistant Alan Koochof, who played professionally in Europe for several years, and Glendale Community College men's basketball assistant Vigen Jilizian also made guest appearances.
Coach Z's Camp offered a well-rounded curriculum that seemed to have something to please everyone.
"I like all the competitions and stations," Max Meyer, 11, a second-year camper from La Crescenta said. "A lot of the competitions are shooting and you learn form and practice shooting [in the stations], some competitions are more like speed and so you have agility stations."
Ten-year-old Andy Borsh of La Crescenta said of the camp's activities and drills, "It's great, I like them all. I want a challenge. I'll definitely come back."