Hopefuls take to Crescenta Valley High hardwood

LA CRESCENTA — During the high school basketball season, Henry Alvarez can be found in the stands of the Crescenta Valley High gymnasium a handful of times a year.

Alvarez, an incoming seventh-grader at Rosemont Middle School, estimates he attends about five Falcons boys' basketball games a year. Come summer time, he gets to take center court.

Ever since Coach Z's Basketball Camp — a summer skills and fun clinic put on by CV Coach Shawn Zargarian — began seven years ago, Alvarez, 13, has faithfully been in attendance.

“I always tell them on the first day, they're used to it, the No. 1 thing is to have fun,” Zargarian said. “I know there's kids here who want to get better at basketball and take it very, very seriously, but there's other ones who just come, want to exercise and have a good time. Our ultimate goal is that every kid goes home happy and has a good time. We also want to work on their basketball skills, make sure they're exercising, staying in shape and keeping fit, too.”

Like many other campers in the group of 85 this year, Alvarez is on the more serious side and hoped the camp, which ran from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday, would help set the stage for him to transition roles from a fan to player when he hits high-school age and enrolls at Crescenta Valley in two years.

While he may have learned and enhanced his fundamental skills of the game in previous years, his main focus this year was building and strengthening relationships with the Falcons coaching staff, current and former players and fellow campers

“Coach Z is watching me,” Alvarez said. “He sees me working hard and he'll see me when I'm older and know I'm a hard-working kid and stuff.”

Alvarez's hopeful path to the hardwood wouldn't be a unique one. A number of former and current CV players attended Zargarian's camp in the past, including reigning All-Area Boys' Basketball Player of the Year Cole Currie and 2011 Pacific League co-Player of the Year Christian Misi.

“This coming freshman class we have now, a lot of those kids were in my camp for like four or five years,” Zargarian said. “It's pretty cool to see them when they get into high school.”

Whatever their motivation was for attending, campers were kept busy from the minute the doors opened at 8:30 a.m. for pre-camp shoot-around to when they closed at 3 p.m. after some competitions.

In between, campers between the ages of 6 to 13 were busy stretching, training specific skill sets and taking part in a wide range of competitions, from around-the-world, free-throw shooting and knockout contests to scrimmages later in the week.

There were also guest speakers throughout the week, including former CV boys’ basketball Coach John Goffredo, Falcons graduate Eric Strangis, who also graduated from USC, Andrius Raguaskas, a veteran professional player in Europe, and former Glendale Community College and current UCLA basketball player Sooren Derboghosian.

Among the cast of camp coaches Zargarian dubbed as one of the best he’s ever had were 2012 Crescenta Valley graduates and current college players Davis Dragovich (Chapman University), Dylan Kilgour (Macalester College), Glendale Community College assistant Vigen Jilizian and several current CV players.

Those coaches helped keep the kids running in between skill stations. In seven-minute intervals, campers would rotate between eight to nine stations in the CV gym designated to drill passing, shooting, defending, rebounding, agility and dribbling skills.

One camper who got a starter’s course when it came to basketball was Zargarian’s 6-year-old son, Vaughn. The youngster admitted he’s thought about one day playing for his dad at Crescenta Valley, but for the moment his focus was on learning new things on the court.

“Everyone here loves playing basketball, that's why we're all here at the end of the day,” Dragovich said. “[The camp is here] to help them get better and work on their fundamentals, because a lot of young players sometimes lose sight of the fundamentals. We're just here to reinforce them.”

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