Hoop Group’s mission of providing the best instruction, competition, and exposure for young athletes is not limited to only those from the United States.
Here at Elite Camp I on the campus of Albright University, ballers have come from as far away as Croatia, Turkey, and the United Kingdom to hone their basketball skills and measure themselves against top-flight competition.
Two of those athletes, currently playing in the camp’s NCAA Division, are Luke Baber, from South Africa, and Kevin Caesar, from Trinidad and Tobago.
Both Baber, a 6-foot-1 forward from Michaelhouse boarding school, and Caesar, a 5-foot-5 guard from St. Mary’s College, are members of the Class of 2015, and they are both looking to advance their game in order to pursue dreams of playing collegiate ball in the U.S.
“You always think about playing at a higher level,” Caesar said. “And hopefully, I can achieve that.”
“My brother (Nicholas Baber, 6’4” F Michaelhouse Class of 2013 and also a camper) is a member of the South African National Team and it is a goal of mine to play at that level and here [collegiately].”
To attain those goals both realize a lot of hard work is necessary, and both appear willing to put forth that hard work.
Caesar and several members of his high school team will be here not only for Elite Camp I, but also Elite Camp II and Team Camp, which concludes July 15. They will then take part in tournaments in Maryland, West Virginia, and New York City. Baber, along with his brother, attended Academic Elite Camp I earlier this summer and will remain through Elite Camp II, which concludes July 13.
“Coach brought us here for exposure to better play and that’s what we have seen. The intensity and skill level here are really high,” said Caesar.
Baber echoed those sentiments when comparing the game to the way it’s played back in South Africa, which only joined the International Basketball Federation in 1992 and has yet to qualify for either the Olympics or the World Championships. “The game is fairly new there. People play really hard here (compared to home). At home the game is not as advanced.”
Of course traveling such a long distance at a young age to hone their skills would be a little harder if it wasn’t for the support of teammates and family.
“I’m very close to my brother,” Baber says. “He wants to play collegiately here [in the U.S.] and if I can advance my game to his level, I will probably choose to play where he goes to school.”
“It’s nice to have my coach here with me because after drills and games he is there for encouragement,” Caesar added.
And it is in those drills where both hope to improve a skill they feel they are lacking as they pursue playing the game at a higher level, ball-handling.
“Players here are aggressive and if you can’t handle the ball it doesn’t really matter what else you can do,” said Baber. “But during the stations, coaches here have the right balance between helping you and running the drill.”
The theme of aggressive play was mentioned a lot by these two players, but they made sure to note that that aggressive and competitive attitude was only evident on the court.
“People here have been really friendly,” Caesar said, “And encouraging.”
Baber agreed with that statement saying that the interaction with fellow campers during this session has been one of many positives at camp which he enjoys off the court.
“During academic camp it seemed to me that campers were not only competitive on the court but also off it as well. This week the intensity and competition is high on the court but it seems more friendly (and encouraging) off it,” Baber said, “and the food is good too.”
Follow Pete Febbraro on Twitter: @pfebbraro