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At Jay Bilas’ skills camp, coaches try to teach the game ‘the right way’

Northside Christian School basketball star Jalen Hood-Schifino is fighting a little knee tendinitis, but said he couldn’t turn down a chance to participate in the sixth annual Jay Bilas Skills Camp at Queens University this week.

More than 120 campers from around the nation and Canada are in Charlotte this weekend learning about the game from more than 50 college coaches and Bilas, the Young Jeezy-quoting ESPN analyst.

This isn’t your typical play-all-day camp, either. The players get instructed on basic skills, high-level concepts and plays they might see in college. There is also a parent education program with talks from experts about strength and conditioning, recruiting and training.

“Learning from all these guys,” said Schifino, ranked No. 22 nationally among rising sophomores by ESPN, “they’re all great coaches and teaching us a lot of things outside of basketball, life skills and everything ... At this camp, everything you’re doing is next level. From them telling you the different plays to run and the intensity you have to have, it’s basically you getting firsthand college tips. Me going back to AAU and high school ball, I should be able to take these things and incorporate them into my teams.”

Bilas said that’s exactly what he hopes players get out of this experience.

“We’re trying to help them identify areas they need to get better in so they can go back to their teams as a better player,” Bilas said. “We introduce higher level concepts ... and then do drill work so they can take it into games ... Hopefully when they leave here, they have some idea of these higher-level concepts, so when they run into them in the future, they’ll have some foundational knowledge of it and will have seen it and will have done it before.”

Bilas said the camp has grown from about 60 campers when he started; he’s also incorporated a development program to help young coaches network and get them some instruction.

And there is a diverse mix of talent among the campers.

There are some rising ninth graders hoping to make their high school team and big-name stars like Schifino and Canadian star Elijah Fisher, a rising freshman who has been called the world’s best middle school player.

“There’s just an array of talent at different levels,” said Paul Biancardi, ESPN’s director of recruiting who is also working the camp. “But the ultimate objective is to improve your game and develop and understand it’s about the things that have to do with team and not the individual. We try to teach the ‘we’ and not the ‘me.’”

For Hood-Schifino — who has offers from Florida, Illinois, South Florida, Virginia Tech and Wake Forest — the camp has been everything he hoped it would, especially being this close to Bilas.

“It’s crazy honestly,” he said with a smile. “I’ve been seeing Jay Bilas since I was young. Learning from him and hearing from him, man, it’s been a great experience.”

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