Battle in the Bluffs is hoops fun for all

Oliver Culliton takes off on the fast break, backed by Camille King and Jade Powell.
Photo by Ralph Stewart

Oliver Culliton takes off on the fast break, backed by Camille King and Jade Powell.

The Battle in the Bluffs youth fundamental basketball camp returned last weekend to Niantic Park in Oak Bluffs for a second consecutive summer.

Former Molloy College player, native New Yorker, and 2001 Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School graduate Ian Minor is founder and co-chairman of the event, along with Arthur Andrews III from New Britain, Conn., who played at George Washington University. They were assisted last weekend by a host of former collegiate and professional players: Gary Deberry (Queens College, Nantes Dragons), Solomon Jones (Nyack College), Austin Andrews (Siena College), Kia Minor (Framingham State), Harvey Fuller (9 de Julio Rio Tercero, Argentina), Melvin Robinson (St. Peter’s), and Andre Clark (United Tribes Technical Collge and Bismarck Thunderbirds).

More than 70 children, aged 8-16, from Martha’s Vineyard and across the nation took part this year, an increase of nearly 20 from 2012.

The goal of the the camp is to instill work habits conducive to success on the basketball court that translate to success later in life.

“From the baseline to the boardroom, that’s our slogan,” Mr. Minor said. “Our three pillars are to teach kids fiscal responsibility, to be mindful, and to be prepared for life.” Ian currently works for the New York City board of education. “I wake up and get a chance to change lives everyday. I know what I do is bigger than me.”

The event began Friday with two sessions devoted to drills and skill sets covering footwork, ball handling, passing, shooting, and positional play, with an emphasis on teamwork. The approach was similar to the inaugural Battle in the Bluffs but with a little tweaking.

“We trimmed the fat and streamlined a couple of things,” Mr. Minor said, “Not to say it’s better, but it ran a lot smoother. We added kids who go to MVRHS to come and help out and slimmed down on the drills.”

The intense heat Friday also cut down on time for drills. With on-court temperatures hovering in the 90′s, the coaches wisely cut the afternoon session short at 2:30 pm.

On Saturday, the youngsters applied what they had learned the previous day by playing in a series of 10-minute games, which concluded shortly after noon. Mr. Minor then gathered the players at center court to praise their efforts and hand out certificates of achievement, awards, and gifts.

“It’s all about being mindful, it’s all about paying attention and putting it all out there,” Mr Minor told the young players. “I think today you guys left it out on the court. I’m very impressed with everybody here. We appreciate you, and I appreciate your effort. It’s summertime. You guys could be at the beach, you could be playing X-BOX. It’s hot out here, but you chose to come here and get better, so you guys deserve a lot of applause.”

Kids and coaches alike seemed to thoroughly enjoy the clinic.

“My experience was fantastic,” said John Phillips of New Rochelle, N.Y. “I loved it and I am definitely coming back.”

Coach Gary Deberry, back for a second time, agreed. “This weekend is, by far, the best of the year for me, because we get to come back and teach these kids,” he said. “The drills that we had them doing yesterday — I think that was the best part of it, just watching them absorbing everything. They were out here in the [hot] sun but they were still so energetic, enthusiastic, and ready to go.”

Mr. Deberry then restated one of the program’s main goals. “Not everybody is going to be a basketball player,” he said, “so getting them to keep the work ethic, teamwork aspects, it’s all going to translate into whatever they do next.”

With two successful camps under his belt, Ian Minor is planning on the Battle in the Bluffs being a Vineyard Fourth of July weekend fixture for years to come. He also gave thanks to his staff and to the Island community.

“Without the help of my coaches, my sisters (Kia and Hailee), and without the support of the Oak Bluffs and Martha’s Vineyard businesses, it just wouldn’t be possible…Battle in the Bluffs will always be an M.V. thing and will always give back to M.V.”

Connecticut repeats as adult champ

At the conclusion of camp, the adults contested their own Battle in the Bluffs to determine regional hoops supremacy. As was the case last year, the local Vineyard team gave a strong account of themselves, losing 60-54 to defending champion Connecticut in the semifinals. Former MVRHS star Peter Keaney led the Islanders with 15 points, while Jade Cash and Lucas Brewer scored a dozen each.

Connecticut then played New York in a rematch of the 2012 final. The Empire Staters led 22-16 at the break and 31-18 early in the second half, but the Nutmeggers roared back with a 23-5 run to win the title. Andre Clark had the hot hand in the comeback and Austin Andrews hit a clutch three with 55 seconds left on the clock to put Connecticut in the lead for good.

For more information on the Battle in the Bluffs, visit battleinthebluffs.org