NEW BRITAIN - Kurt Reis always envisioned hosting a summer basketball camp for local kids, and over the past two weeks, the New Britain boys basketball head coach has watched that vision become a reality.
Reis, along with the rest of the Hurricanes’ coaching staff, has spent the past fortnight back inside the walls of New Britain High School’s gymnasium, coaching children from third grade to eighth grade through various drills and the ins and outs of the game.
“I always thought about it when I was coaching at Hartford Public, but I never had the opportunity,” Reis said of his summer camp, which is being hosted for the first time. “When I presented it to (New Britain High School athletic director) Lenny (Corto), he thought it was a great idea and he kind of pushed it forward with downtown, and the people downtown agreed to it. I think for the basketball program, as far as long term, it’s something we can benefit from.”
For Reis, the beginning of what he hopes to be an annual camp couldn’t have come at a much better time.
In just his second season as the head coach at New Britain, Reis led the Hurricanes to the Division II state championship game this past March, the program’s first appearance in a state final since 2002. The year prior, his first season with the program, Reis led New Britain to an 11-win improvement from the year before he arrived, and the Hurricanes reached the state quarterfinals.
“The last two years have seen some success, and I think people notice that and look at that,” Reis said. “Every parent wants their kid to be a part of something.”
Reis believes the program’s success helped the turnout for his first summer camp, which included nearly 30 children with an even spread of different age groups, who worked through various shooting, passing and dribbling drills with Reis and the rest of the staff.
“For the first year, I’m not disappointed,” Reis said. “I’m obviously excited. To have over 20 kids is a good thing. I think they’ve been enjoying themselves, so that’s a positive.”
The children at Tuesday’s session arrived at the high school at 8:30 a.m., part of a daily routine that runs from Monday through Thursday.
Reis welcomed the group with a series of dribbling drills before the campers were treated to five-on-five game action. More drills and teaching followed before the day concluded with more games to keep the group engaged and entertained, while getting to know the staff that Reis hopes will see them back at New Britain High School to try out for the basketball team.
“The entire coaching staff is here, which is a great thing,” Reis said. “Everyone has found time between last week and this week to put some time in. The kids have a relationship with a familiar face, and that goes a long way.”
Reis prepped the older group at the camp for such a future by leading them through drills identical to the ones they would see at a Hurricanes practice, though he admits he will have to wait to show them his trademark full-court press defense that helped this year’s Hurricanes reach the state final.
Reis will hold off on that until they reach the high school level.
“No, no, we can’t do that yet,” Reis laughed.
Still, Reis already has his eyes set on the future, to continue helping the children become better basketball players. The success of this inaugural camp has Reis preparing for more opportunities to work with those that attended, and hopefully more interested children that can help the camp, and interest in New Britain basketball, continue to expand.
“We’ll probably try and do a one day thing in the fall before the season starts,” Reis explained. “I know they usually go to parks and rec. or travel leagues. Maybe we can do a one day clinic prior to all of that starting, just to keep in contact, and hopefully the numbers will grow.”
Ryan Chichester can be reached at (860) 801-5094 or firstname.lastname@example.org