“That ball was just as important then as it was at the beginning of the game,” said former WNBA and Olympic player Ruthie Bolton.
Bolton was telling a group of boys and girls about wrestling for a loose ball in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics while Team USA was already up by 25 points.
Bolton and former Willamette University basketball coach Gordie James were just a couple of the dozen or so volunteer coaches at Friday’s inaugural Hoopla Hoop Camp. More than 150 players ages 7 to 14 got one-on-one coaching of the game’s fundamentals and gained insight from experienced basketball minds.
Players were broken into groups of 10 to 20 players of similar skill levels and went through everything from footwork and ball-handling in the morning to 3-on-3 scrimmages in the early afternoon.
James, a member of Willamette University Bearcat Athletics’ Hall of Fame, said the community aspect of Hoopla, in a sense, is what the sport is all about.
“The game of basketball teaches us how to share; we learn how to be part of a team,” James said. “For the players to come back out and give back to the younger kids echoes that spirit of the game.”
James said there was no hesitation to get involved when approached to put on a camp during Hoopla.
“It was an easy yes,” James said. “It wasn’t hard to put together. I mean, this isn’t my first camp.”
James coached at Willamette for 22 years, amassing a 357-230 record. During James’ tenure, the Bearcats had 16 winning seasons including six Northwest Conference titles and an NAIA Division II National Championship in 1993.
Campers used 15 hoops set up on Court Street NE between the state Capitol and Cottage Street.