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click to enlarge LAURA MONTGOMERY RUTT

The Greg Buckner School of Basketball is that rare brand of sports camp that tells it to you straight: Launch yourself precariously toward athletic eminence, or have it both ways and hone your game as you earn a college degree.

The traveling camp visited the Colorado Springs Southeast YMCA last week. Seventy-five children from all over the country signed up for five days of sweaty, sneaker-squeaking rigor in the gymnasium with NBA veteran Buckner (pictured left) and others.

A group of seven college basketball players coached the elementary-, middle- and high school-aged kids in "Basketball 101." Every day's training ended with a series five-on-five scrimmages, the astronomically tall coaches refereeing a succession of knee-high games.

Each camper took part in the program's "life skills" workshops, in which they were asked to define success by putting their goals on paper. Their coaches encouraged them to look toward their parents, rather than their favorite NBA players, as personal heroes. The kids also wrote thank-you letters to the local and national donors who buoy the Greg Buckner Foundation, a Denver-based organization that sponsors the basketball camp. The donors help to waive the $200 registration fee for many of the campers.

When 14-year-old Deanna Mcgrone got to camp, she wanted to be a professional player. But after five days of strength conditioning, ball handling and scrimmaging, she thinks she'll go to college and try out for the WNBA when the time is right.

Mcgrone, who will start at Fountain High School in the fall, says the camp helped her get into shape for her new coach. And, she says, it was a tutorial in more ways than one.

"It's about mental and physical power," she says.

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