Byars’ basketball camp instills love of the game for young hoopsters

Published 10:00 am Tuesday, June 6, 2023

To basketball fans of Clark County, the Byars family name needs no introduction.

However, Tuesday through Thursday of last week allowed youth to develop and get an introduction to the game from local basketball royalty.

Juan Byars, the girls’ Head Basketball Coach at Robert D. Campbell Junior High School (RDC) and freshman girls’ basketball coach at George Rogers Clark High School, hosted a basic skills camp for kindergarten through eighth-grade students at the Letcher Norton Gymnasium of RDC, located on Boone Avenue.

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“It’s a basic skills camp for us to get the younger talent not only in our community but for surrounding communities to come and work on their skills and get them ready for summer basketball”, said Byars. “That helps not only players but the teams when they get ready to go into middle school or high school.”

Groups of athletes totaling 124 were split for the camp across two time periods and age groups.

While the 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. morning session incorporated individuals from kindergarten through fourth grade, the 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. afternoon session was for participants from fifth through eighth grade.

Various stations were located throughout the gym where individuals could learn how to shoot best, dribble, pass, move one-on-one with the basketball, and more.

However, they all focused on fundamentals, tasks that Byars has become familiar with during his coaching.

“We tried to make it as simple as possible, because basketball is a simple game. It’s the people that make it hard”, Byars said. “Players change, but the fundamentals stay the same.”

When asked what to emphasize the most, Byars stressed ball handling.

“That’s what it boils down to,” he said. “The best player on the floor is the person who can handle the ball. [We’re] trying to get kids to understand the importance because basketball has evolved so much that it has become a positionless game.”

To find fellow instructors for the camp, Byars didn’t have to look far.

Several players from last year’s George Rogers Clark High School girls’ basketball team that made it to the Final Four of the 2023 KHSAA Girls Basketball State Tournament were happy to help out.

One such player, junior Ciara Byars, is Juan Byars’ daughter.

She has already fielded offers from several major Division 1 universities – including the Universities of Kentucky and Louisville – and spoke about her coaching experience.

“The kids are enjoyable, and we all get to enjoy the sport that we love and show our face for the community,” Ciara Byars said. “It definitely reminded me of things that I do in the game.”

She also spoke of working at the camp alongside her father.

“We’re really close,” she said. “It’s just a fun experience to be able to do this with him.”

While Juan Byars, who has been operating camps for over 20 years, may be familiar with taking a leadership role, he wished to express thanks for supporting staff – including GRC Head Basketball Coach Robbie Graham and Assistant Coach Steve Anderson.

“We got a pretty good knit group,” he said. “We try to keep the [relationship] solid, and we just try to come work together.”