Six years ago, Joe Touvell and Cory Doty were playing a round of basketball at the Wilson Playground in North Wheeling with the men's team from West Virginia Northern Community College when a few of the children on the block asked if they could play.
Doty told the youngsters that if they returned the following night, the older guys would teach them a little something about basketball. The next day 20 children showed up. That marked the official beginning of the North Wheeling Basketball Camp and Men's Basketball Tournament.
The camp continues this week from 3:30-6:30 p.m. today through Saturday, culminating with a pool party for the young participants, ages 5-16. The campers go through drills, flowing from station to station, learning the basics of the game and improving their skills. Good sportsmanship also is emphasized.
Photo by Heather Ziegler
Basketballs go flying toward the hoop as players at the North Wheeling Basketball Camp and Men’s Basketball Tournament at Wilson Playground in North Wheeling on Tuesday night take some practice shots before a game.
The men's tournament, featuring the best in local and tri-state area hoops talent, continues nightly at 7 p.m. at the North Wheeling Playground and concludes with tournament action on Friday.
Eight men's teams are competing from Wheeling, Duquesne in Pittsburgh, Glen Dale, Martins Ferry and WVNCC.
Touvell, who coaches the men's basketball team at WVNCC with Doty and colleague Phil McLaughlin, said the first year the program saw about 30 young participants. This week, more than 70 children showed up to be a part of this free camp.
"The first year we had the camp, some of the kids showed up wearing sandals. They didn't have any basketball shoes so I went out and bought them shoes," Doty said. "Now we have kids - both boys and girls - from Wheeling, Elm Grove, Bellaire, Martins Ferry coming to the camp. We love it."
Doty said the camp was an "outreach from WVNCC and some of the men's team players from the college help out with the campers. He added that the program has had a positive effect on the neighborhood, keeping youngsters busy honing their roundball skills.
Seeing how many children enjoyed the first camp, the coaches decided to add a men's tournament as a way of raising money to pay for supplies. Since that time, several sponsors have come forward to help out. They include WVNCC, TJ's Sports Garden Restaurant, Ziegenfelder's, Zavolta Law Office, Hole 'N Run, Louis Niebergall Ice Co., Nickles Bakery Co., DiCarlo's Pizza, Budget Interiors, Ohio Valley Awards, the Owl's Nest and Wheeling Recreation Department.
Hole 'N Run will award basketball shoes to the hardest working camper. Each camper receives a T-shirt, trophies and refreshments.
This week, singer, musician/songwriter B.E. Taylor christened the tournament by singing the national anthem. Disc jockey Sean "B" keeps the music flowing during the camp.
Touvell said the annual camp and tournament have received the blessings of several local coaches and officials. A number of local high school and college coaches offer their expertise to the campers and enjoy seeing their future players in action.
"Some of the kids in the first camps are now playing high school ball and they come back to the camp and help out," Touvell noted. "They really are giving back."
For questions about the camp, call Touvell at 740-632-8573 or Doty at 614-218-5822.