“March Madness” came to Phillips County in August in the form of the annual Mike Conley hoops camp hosted by the Boys & Girls Club of Phillips County Saturday. This marked the fifth year that the Memphis Grizzlies star point guard has sponsored the basketball camp-clinic in Helena-West Helena.
Make no mistake about it – Mike Conley is a big hero among the youngsters in Phillips County. When Conley walked onto the court in the Hendrix Gym at the B&GC Center, the youngsters' eyes lit up like it was Christmas morning.
While the camp was officially open to youngsters in grades 8 through 12, some members of the younger set were graciously granted the opportunity to meet Mike and have their photos taken with their hero. To this group of Phillips County kids its like Mike Conley is a part of the Memphis Grizzlies that belongs to them.
Between 75 and 80 boys and girls participated in the camp.
“This camp continues to grow every year,” stated one of the organizers of the event.
From 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. basketball was at the center of the universe and youngsters were divided into different age groups that were drilled in various basketball skills at different stations. The skills ranged from ball handling to shooting, free throw shooting, lay-ups and others.
There were some skilled and talented players taking part in the camp as well as some youngsters who were just starting out with the basic fundamentals of the game. It was obvious that some of the kids had been coached and drilled quite well on the local level during their formative years.
The young basketball prospects were all well behaved and followed the instructions they received from several experienced and competent coaches, who obviously loved the children.
Before Conley's formal introduction, the crew was treated to some exciting video highlights from the Grizzlies' highly successful playoff run this past spring.
“I enjoy spending time with the kids,” stated Conley.
Deeply religious, Conley told the youngsters there was much more to life than just the game of basketball.
“What a thrill it is to play in the NBA against the greatest basketball players in the world,” he said. “Hopefully, I will be able to play the game 10 to 15 years but that is a rather short period of your life. By the time I am 35 it will probably all be over for me.”
Conley gave his family's support as the key to his success. Born in Fayetteville, Arkansas, he is the son of Olympic gold and silver medalist triple Mike Conley Sr., who also makes the trek to Phillips County for his son's sports camp.
“I would have never had this opportunity if it weren't for my family,” he said.
Page 2 of 2 - Conley is a man of few words but many talents as he wowed the kids with a demonstration of his basketball shooting and ball handling skills.
There's no doubt that there are a lot of Phillips County parents that would like their sons and daughters to “be like Mike.”