The stars were back in town this week.
Well, Mason County graduate and current New Orleans Pelican Darius Miller was in Maysville for the Camp One Darius Miller and Chris Lofton Skills Camp. Lofton was unable to attend, as his Le Mans Sarthe team is currently playing in the championship series of the French Ligue Nationale de Basket JeepELITE playoffs. He scored 34 points on Monday to lead his team to a 2-1 advantage in the best-of-five series.
While the annual camp, which is finishing up its sixth year on Wednesday, has been a big attraction to the youth of Maysville, Camp One has been branching out to find other ways to get involved in basketball.
“We wanted to take it to the next level, as far as nationally. What could we do to help kids around Kentucky in Louisville, Eastern Kentucky kids, Lexington, Cincinnati kids, Northern Kentucky kids? What could we do to help them get exposure on a national level?” said Camp One director Julius King. “We were able to kind of knock down doors or crack through and really get up with Coast 2 Coast Preps and really start setting a stage and having a platform for these kids to really perform and get that national attention.”
King, a former Maysville Bulldog and Mason County Royal, took over the reins from Terrence Commodore, another Mason County graduate, a few years ago. Commodore worked as an assistant at Eastern Kentucky University and recently joined the staff under Walter McCarty at Evansville.
The current director says he was part of it from the beginning, but had moved to Cincinnati and then to Cleveland, making it difficult to stay directly involved. There had been a camp with Lofton around 2009, when Miller was still at the University of Kentucky, and others stars were also brought in for camps throughout the years.
“I was kind of secluded. Like, basketball – I just kind of gave it up. I watched it on TV, I’d go watch Chris and Darius play when I was in town through high school. I’d drive all the way back down from Cleveland to watch Chris and Darius and even T.C. and those guys when they did their thing, but I was kind of out of it, but then he [Commodore] kept drawing me back in,” said King. “When he did the super camp with DeMarcus Cousins and John Wall and Eric Bledsoe and all of those guys, I came back in and I helped one year and I was hooked.”
Camp One has started putting more focus on showcasing the talents of the younger players, through events like their Midwest Spotlight Series that involves a combine and showcase. The showcase event was done earlier in June in collaboration with Coast 2 Coast Preps.
The event drew over 200 kids, according to King. They had players come from places like New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Wisconsin and Georgia, as well as those from Kentucky and Ohio.
“I know having those stars is big for these kids, but I wanted to really get into the grassroots of basketball and really do some stuff and that’s where we’re at now. We’re making a huge difference,” said King.
“We wanted to expand. The superstars are cool, but you can only get them when you can get them, you know what I’m saying? We wanted to take and do more for these kids on a skill level,” added King. “We have these camps where we can try to develop their skill. Then we go into the combine where we measure their skill. Then we get together and do the spotlights where they can showcase their skill.”
The events have drawn interest from players of all skill levels – a goal of Camp One. They have events for beginners, but have also had several high-caliber players come through the programs.
King is often in the stands watching former Camp One players at the next level. The coaches and players end up becoming close to one another, and the organization’s social media accounts will frequently share accomplishments with the hashtag “#CampOneFamily.”
One player, the combine MVP in 2014, according to King, was Dontaie Allen, a rising senior at Pendleton County. He currently holds offers from several Division I schools, including Purdue, Virginia Tech, Western Kentucky, Xavier, Nevada and West Virginia. He also recently took an unofficial visit to the University of Kentucky.
“Growing up in Maysville as a Mason County Royal and a Maysville Bulldog – I’ve got to put that in there – for me, I just like good basketball. I appreciate basketball IQ in kids. I’m a stickler for that,” said King. “Just to get out and see what Kentucky is breeding and then now with us expanding and growing into our combines, our Midwest Series with our combine and our spotlight, I wanted to get out and see what some of our past players are doing, like Dontaie Allen.”
King says Camp One has been contacted to come to other cities in the south and the Midwest and are looking into expanding, but want to make sure they can do it right and not halfway.
But wherever the events expand to, Maysville will remain their favorite destination to get kids together to improve their basketball skills.
“This is always going to be our number one hub and our number one hotspot, and we definitely want these guys and the little girls around here to improve their games in any way we can help, man,” said King. “We’re on board. This is home base, man. We love Maysville.”