It’s almost that time of year again, when summer basketball camps come into play, but given the nature of the ever-present coronavirus pandemic, everything remains up in the air for the coming weeks.
A couple of the more popular camps on the island, the Kevin “KJ” Johnson Summer Basketball Camp and the Denykco Bowles Elite Skills Basketball Camp, are still on schedule, both set to get underway in about a month’s time.
The 22nd Annual Kevin Johnson camp is set for June 29 to July 17 at the C.I. Gibson Gymnasium. The 7th Denykco Bowles camp is scheduled for June 22 to July 10, tentatively set for the Kendal G.L. Isaacs National Gymnasium, given the refurbishment efforts that are being carried out at that venue. The gym was used as a temporary housing facility for displaced victims of Hurricane Dorian in the Northern Bahamas in September of last year.
Johnson said he has every intention to stage his camp again this year, using safety precautions, and is watching the developments as it relates to the reopening of the economy. Bowles said he would love to stage his camp but added that it would depend heavily on the guidelines and restrictions in place by the Government of The Bahamas.
The Bahamas is currently in Phase 1B of a six-step plan for the reopening of the economy. Group and recreational activities are listed under Phase 4 of the national plan, but camp organizers have received optimism from their counterparts in the United States (US), particularly Florida, as it relates to summer activities. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis announced last week that youth activities, including summer camps and organized sports events, are allowed to take place.
Children in The Bahamas have been at home from school since March 16. There is no telling when schools will reopen. Johnson said once they receive the ‘all clear’ sign, they will definitely go ahead and stage the camp.
“Well, we’ll have hand sanitizers and health stations in place, testing temperatures, and also stress to campers and instructors the importance of washing their hands regularly, staying safe and social distancing,” said Johnson. “When we look at what the U.S. is doing, that is a good sign for us because we normally follow their lead. I just hope that everything comes into play by then. The plan right now is to go ahead and stage the camp. The kids are ready to go, especially after being home for so long. It’s a wait-and-see situation right now, but I feel that once we keep progressing the way we should and we adhere to the protocols in place, everything should be fine and the camp will happen.”
Johnson said that they intend to stage a development session about a week before the start of the camp, and that at the conclusion of the camp, a 16-and-under team will be selected to travel to Orlando, Florida, for a couple AAU (Amateur Athletic Union) international championships.
“It’s important for us to get these kids to play at another level. There will be a number of college coaches and scouts at the AAU events looking for talent. We have to give these kids the opportunity to be seen,” said Johnson. “Right now, we understand that there are strict measures in place and it’s all about being safe, but if you really look at it, the infection rate is really low in kids. Of course, we would still take the proper precautions and adhere to the safety measures. It would be very disappointing if the camp doesn’t happen but we’re hoping that is not the case. Hopefully, the infection rate slows down and they see the importance of keeping kids busy during the summer.”
Also, the NBA (National Basketball Association) is in talks with the Walt Disney Company on a single-site scenario for resumption of play in Central Florida in late July – the same time that Johnson and his group are scheduled to be in Orlando for the AAU tournaments. Johnson hinted that it would be a good opportunity for the Bahamian youngsters to be in the same place as the NBA players, as even an autograph or two could go a long way in their development. The Bahamian campers are scheduled to be in Central Florida from July 17 to August 3 – playing in three separate tournaments.
Johnson’s camp will run at a cost of $100 per camper for three weeks. Bowles’ camp will run at a cost of $150 per camper for two weeks. It is primarily for boys and girls, ranging from ages 5-18.
“Hopefully, by the end of this week, we’ll have an idea on how the country is progressing in its reopening efforts and, come June, we could receive the go ahead to stage the camp,” said Bowles. “It’s disappointing right now, because we’re still at home and still practicing social distancing. Even if the camp takes place, we understand that a lot of people might not be in a position to afford sending their kids to camps because of what is going on. We’re hopeful but it’s up to the government and the measures that are in place. It would be kind of tough to have measures in place because basketball is a contact sport and there is very little you could do to prevent players from coming into contact with each other. We see that places in the U.S. have already started opening up and we would want to go ahead and have the camp, but it all depends on the government. Hopefully, they will consider these camps and everything will take place as planned.”
The Kevin Johnson camp and the Denykco Bowles camp are just two of the local basketball camps on schedule this summer. Young aspiring basketball players are home from school given the measures that are in place due to the presence of the COVID-19 pandemic, and are just longing for the opportunity to engage in any group activity this summer.
It remains to be seen how it will all transpire.