McKeesport Salvation Army camp teaches on-court skills for off-court success
It is a series of life lessons cleverly disguised as a basketball camp.
“Fundamentally there are some things you do and some things you do not do,” Kevin Murphy said as he and several other adult volunteers put some 24 youngsters through drills on Tuesday at the McKeesport Salvation Army gymnasium.
Tuesday was the second of three days of the annual Drew Henderson-Bracey Memorial Basketball Camp, a new summer tradition offered for free to its young participants.
“We teach them fundamentals the first two days and the third day we let them play,” Murphy said.
One fundamental: Holding on to a basketball as if you're holding on to your family.
“You are in control of your family,” volunteer Paul Redwood said. “You have to have total control of this. You might be put in a position where you don't have much time to think about it.”
And there wasn't much time as the youngsters lined up for a variety of drills on the Salvation Army hardcourt.
“It seems like our children are thirsting and desiring structured activity,” said Major Sean Barton, commanding officer of the McKeesport Salvation Army Corps. “It seems to be growing every year.”
On Tuesday morning, 45 youngsters ages 7-11 were in the gymnasium. In the afternoon, the class covered youngsters ages 12-18, including one who arrived at 1:20 p.m.
“You're a bit late, my man,” volunteer Arthur Long said. “It started at 12:30. Drop down and give me 20.”
Twenty pushups, that is. He wasn't the first.
“They're not paying attention to details so they're doing pushups,” Murphy said after three others did the impromptu exercise.
The camp started four years ago but was rededicated last year to the memory of Murphy's 18-year-old nephew.
Drew Henderson-Bracey was shot to death in December 2011 in the basement of a Duquesne house where the owner's daughter was celebrating her 16th birthday.
The theme of “Shoot Hoops, Not Guns” is on T-shirts donated by friends of Murphy who served with him, and played basketball with him, in the military.
Murphy told one friend in New York that he needed help securing T-shirts for this year.
“Send me your address,” the friend told Murphy.
On the T-shirts are sponsors of the camp, including T-shirt supplying “Brothers in Christ” Ivan Jackson; “My Friend Rich,” who didn't want to be identified otherwise; the Salvation Army; McKeesport Area High School boys basketball coach Cory Gadson, who provided the basketballs; and McKeesport Shop'n Save owner Jeff Ross.
“He has done something for us each year,” said Murphy, whose company is contracted by Ross to maintain his supermarket floors.
“Who was here yesterday and does not have a (T-)shirt on today?” Redwood asked. Two boys raised their hands.
“Down on the floor, give me 20,” Redwood said.
Redwood, a coach for the old Pittsburgh Xplosion pro basketball team, compared the T-shirt to a uniform a player expects to get from a coach after the drills leading up to a game.
“This is your uniform,” Redwood said. “Don't leave it at home. It's like leaving home without your keys.”
Others helping out on Tuesday included Cayan Thaxton and Dwayne Parker.
As Murphy seeks to keep his nephew's memory alive, the closure has yet to happen in the case of his death.
Quentin Ingram, 26, of McKeesport was arrested in February 2012 for the murder of Henderson-Bracey and the wounding of seven others at that party two months before.
Ingram was supposed to go to trial in September 2012 but his day in court has been delayed multiple times.
Last month Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Donald E. Machen continued a scheduled jury trial until Oct. 7.
Ingram remains jailed without bond in Allegheny County Jail.
Patrick Cloonan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1967, or email@example.com.