Braves building bonds through hoops – North Carolina News

Braves building bonds through hoops –  North Carolina News

PEMBROKE — Standing on the court at the English E. Jones Center on the campus of The University of North Carolina at Pembroke on Wednesday, Nigel Grant was fulfilled.

A rising senior for the Braves’ men’s basketball team, Grant and his teammates had just finished a three-day camp for roughly 125 kids from the region.

“I started to get to know their names,” said Grant, who clapped and cheered on his group of kids throughout the day. “It definitely energizes me seeing that (the kids were) getting better. You see their improvement within a few days and it’s great.”

It was one example of what UNCP coach Ben Miller likes most about the camp each year — seeing the connection between his players and the campers.

“That’s made a big impact,” said Miller, whose team claimed a pair of Peach Belt Conference titles last season.

“I think if you get kids in the community excited about your program, that’s going to get the families involved. It’s really neat to see. There are some kids here that have been five or six years in a row. They start to build those relationships with our players.”

With sneakers squeaking, basketballs bouncing and music pumping throughout the gym early Wednesday morning, campers went through a plethora of drills within their groups.

And it was clear that shooting proved to be the favorite drill for Mitchell Smith and J.T. Hepler, a pair of 9-year-old basketball players who call Lumberton home.

The soft-spoken Hepler said “playing knockout” was the highlight of his day. The main objective of the game is to make a shot before the player in front of you. If that happens, you…

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