Lobo hoops: Youth have their moments at Pitino basketball camp - Albuquerque Journal

Lobo hoops: Youth have their moments at Pitino basketball camp

Two skinny arms coming out from beneath a baggy, oversized neon-yellow practice jersey somehow managed to heave a Nike Elite basketball that seemed to be as big as he was up in the air and into the basket in the Rudy Davalos Center.

The shooter – no more than 8 or 9 years old – had maneuvered down the court of the UNM Lobos practice facility early Tuesday, through a moving scrum of controlled chaos of nine other players to score the basket. He put his team up 16-6 during one of the 5-on-5 scrimmages on Day 2 of the four-day Richard Pitino Basketball Camp.

With a whistle around his neck, Lobo junior wing Javonte Johnson, who was the coach of the team and also serving as a surely unbiased referee at the time, said “that’s good coaching right there” within earshot of a reporter as he jogged down to the other end of the court.

Later in the day, he made sure to update the reporter with a post on social media: “2-0 today, great coaching!”

Johnson was one of several Lobo men’s and women’s basketball players helping instruct the roughly 75 kids taking part in the first Richard Pitino youth camp in the team’s practice facility and on the Pit floor.

“I’ve said from day one we want to rebuild the program, but we need to rebuild Lobo basketball in the community. This is a great start, great turnout,” said Pitino, whose program skipped out on camps in his first summer at UNM because of ongoing COVID-19 concerns. “We want to build it in year two, in year three where we’re having team camp, we’re having multiple day camps. Because the community needs to get re-engaged with Lobo basketball, and this is a great way to do it from the ground up.”

Smiles from the kids were evident as they shared a court with their favorite Lobos, bouncing from station to station learning new skills. But so, too, was the joy for the Lobo players who were getting some of their first direct interaction with young fans since they got to UNM – a program to which many were attracted at least in part on the reputation of the relationship between the fans and players.

“Since COVID happened, camp has kind of been out the window,” said senior guard K.J. Jenkins. “So, getting to see the community come out, (the kids) do what they love to do and us getting to help out, it’s a blessing.”

OK, but it wasn’t all fun and games, right? Were the Lobos doing much actual teaching or coaching?

“Of course,” Jenkins fired back with a smile, whistle around his neck and practice plan itinerary folded up and tucked in his shorts like a seasoned coaching veteran.

“They tell me I’ve got the best station here.”

THE OLDER LOBOS: Aside from the first youth camp in the Pitino era taking place this week, and being run by most of the players who will make up this coming season’s Lobo men’s basketball roster, this week marks the end of the “Summer 1” session at UNM for students and the team.

Next week, returning All-Mountain West guards Jaelen House and Jamal Mashburn return to Albuquerque, too, and that will mean all but center Sebastian Forsling will be in attendance at practices. The 7-foot sophomore is home in Sweden working out with his country’s junior and senior national teams, but has faced a setback with a right hand injury limiting his participation.

As for how the 12 Lobos, including four freshmen (three on scholarship, one a walk-on) and two Division I transfers, have been working out together all month, Pitino said he’s about as pleased as he can be considering he’s made it a point of not overdoing anything five months from the season starting.

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