As they prepare to leave for a basketball team camp in San Diego, the Camp Verde boys' basketball team is hoping to build on the foundation that they have laid this summer.
It began with the Cowboys knowing they needed to improve their conditioning. As well as an emphasis on better defense. From there it was all about breeding confidence in the younger Cowboys that will have bigger roles in 2014-15. All of that has come together to give Camp Verde the start of a successful summer season.
When they hosted Mingus Union on June 10, it was a fun game. As the two varsity teams stepped onto the court, there was a light-heartedness of a pickup game. But more important, it gave head coach Dan Wall a "baseline" for where his team is.
"[My main focus] was to see what we were starting with here," Wall said. "Its one thing to play against ourselves for the last couple weeks, but to play against someone like Mingus, it gives us a baseline for our skill and our teamwork and our defensively ability. I was actually surprised, a little more optimistic than I have been. Just to see the improvement the guys have made, the things that we have remember from last year, I think we've got a decent base to start the summer."
For many of the players, the scrimmage bore the fruits of the past two years under Wall and his staff. Players like senior Bram Hickey and junior spark-plug Javier "Jarvis" Perez showed their continued improvements. Sophomore Reyes Herrera put his skills on display when he was able to draw fouls, go to the free throw line and sink some buckets.
"I've been working on that for a while now," Herrera said. "Coach taught me how hop-stop and pump fake, so I've been getting that going. Free throws have been going better too."
As a team, Jarvis said that the Cowboys' defense has already made strides in the short time they have been together. When June ball began the Cowboys' defense was "horrible." There was little communication and less movement. Now the team moves around the court, knowing where to go and talks with each other so they know what the other team is doing.
"The first day we came and played defense it was horrible," Jarvis said. "No one talked, no one moved and now we talk, we move and we box out like we've been talking about since we started summer ball."
All of the hustling on defense brings to light another area of improvement the Cowboys need to focus on, their conditioning.
"We need to get more conditioned," Herrera said.
The sophomore also admitted that there is time for their conditioning to improve with June being halfway done and season not for a while, but it is something they are working on.
But as the clock wound down with Mingus up on Camp Verde, it was hard to tell the Cowboys were tired. They were having fun, playing ball with their friends they played with years ago, and as Mingus' Michael Harrison put it, the game was about "bragging rights."
"It was fun," Jarvis said. "Its always fun playing them, we never get in arguments or anything, we just play our hardest until the end."