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A camp with a message

Young athletes learn value of academics, as well as basketball skills, at event.

July 19, 2013|By Jeff Tully, jeff.tully@latimes.com
(Roger Wilson Staff…)

BURBANK — Coaching young athletes in a variety of sports for 30 years, Burbank Park, Recreation and Community Services coordinator Mike Graceffo has seen his share of talented athletes get derailed when they get to high school because they neglect their academics.

"Oh yeah, I've seen it happen many times, to good kids," said Graceffo, who also coached at the four local high schools in the past. "They just want to concentrate on sports and they don't take the time to put into their grades.

"I have had to sit guys from playing in the Burbank-Burroughs rivalry game in basketball because they didn't keep up their grades. It's sad to see that."

Because of those experiences, Graceffo makes sure that young players who attend his annual MVP Summer Basketball Camp get the message about maintaining their academics. So, along with the shooting and defensive drills that athletes took part in during the second of two camps this week, the youngsters were also informed about the value of academic preparation by Graceffo and his coaches.

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"That is a very important part of the camp," Graceffo said, "because if you don't keep up your grades you're not going to play and all the hard work you put in is going to be wasted. We want to make sure we stress that and they know they have to put in the work to keep up their grades."

Graceffo's MVP Summer Basketball Camp is in its 13th year and took place Monday through Thursday at Luther Burbank Middle School. The camp, which featured 60 athletes, included players in grades two through six, and they took to the courts outside as well as inside the gym at Luther.

At Graceffo's camps, he mixes basketball with a variety of other activities. Relays, a free-throw-shooting contest with trophies to the winners and raffles are also on tap for the players. Also, each athlete leaves the camp with a certificate of participation and a personalized assessment book highlighting the camper's strengths and things he or she might need to work on.

"With the drills and all the things that we work on, we want to make it fun for the kids," Graceffo said. "If you don't make it fun, the kids won't want to come back. But I think we do a pretty good job at helping them learn the various basketball skills and keeping it fun for them.

"We want to make the camp challenging for the players who do have some experience, but we also try to make it fun for the player who is just coming out to have fun. There's definitely a balance."

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