Liberty Host Annual Basketball Camp

With a month-long game hiatus in their schedule due to the 2008 Olympic Games, the Liberty was presented with a unique opportunity -- a chance to host local kids for a summer basketball camp at the Madison Square Garden Training Center. For 20 young girls between the ages of 10-14, the camp has been the experience of a lifetime.

Directed by team president and general manger Carol Blazejowski, the camp is instructed exclusively by the entire Liberty coaching staff every day. In the afternoon, different Liberty players hit the court to teach individual drills and compete with the campers.

"I love the Liberty and I love playing basketball," said 13-year old Amy from Yonkers, who along with a group of other girls got to eat lunch with head coach Pat Coyle while picking her brain about the game of basketball and the WNBA itself. "To get to talk and learn from the players and coaches I watch on TV is cool.  That's the best part. You can learn a lot from it and it's a lot of fun."

12- year old Lainey, who said she has played basketball all her life, agreed. "It's really cool because we get to see what they do on the pro-level," she said.  "I would tell everyone to come because you get to learn a lot about the pro-level and what type of drills they run and what you need to do to get better."

When the camp opened, the girls were treated to a special clinic by guards Lisa Willis and Loree Moore. Other players scheduled to attend the camp included Shameka Christon, Cathrine Kraayeveld, Megan Duffy, Erlana Larkins and Essence Carson.

Willis and Moore were put through a series of drills by assistant coach Bruce Hamburger to emphasize ball control, shooting and attacking the basket. Following their 20 minute display, the two players engaged in a question and answer session with the campers, who came prepared with deep, thought-provoking queries.

After telling the girls all about their inspirations, hopes, dreams and experiences as a player and a female athlete, Willis and Moore competed with the campers in a game of the always popular knockout. Surprisingly enough, Willis and Moore were the first two contestants eliminated.  However, Willis would get her revenge later on, winning the second round.

Before they left, the two players sat and individually signed autographs for each girl before posing for a picture with each one of them. In addition, all of the campers received two free tickets to a Liberty game at Madison Square Garden. Still, as special as the experience was for each camper, it was equally moving for Willis and Moore.

"It's always a pleasure to do something like this," said Moore. "To get to give your insights on how you started out and what you went through and to give that advice and information to these young girls, it's nice.  Hopefully when they get older, they will do the same for the next generation.  There was no WNBA when I was growing up, and it would have been incredible to have a player that I looked up to come speak to me.  Like these girls, I would have taken it up and eaten it up as much as possible."

Willis agreed wholeheartedly.

"The girls are really great," she said. "They listen and really care about everything you are telling them.  You want to make sure you have something inspiring and exciting to say to them, because they are trying to pattern what we did. They are totally interested in everything we have to say and everything that is going on with us, so I take it very seriously to give them the advice that I would have wanted when I was younger." 

"When I was there age and someone from the pro-level came and talked to me, if they told me the sky was red I would go around telling everyone the sky is red.  It's a lot of influence to have so to be able to help these girls out in any way I can, I take it seriously and hopefully they learned something.  I think they did."

Both players also had amazing things to say about the spectacular manner in which Blazejowski organized and ran the camp.

"Blaze knows how to get things done," said Willis.  "She doesn't mess around, and everyone respects her.  She's been around and knows the game better than anyone.  And the kids are having fun still, so that's all that matters."

"Blaze is still a kid at heart," a laughing Moore chimed in. "She still enjoys doing what she does, and I think this is a chance for her to give back from her experiences as well, and it seems like the girls appreciate it and take everything she says to heart.  They eat it up."

Catch the Liberty when they return to action on Thursday, August 28 at Madison Square Garden against Sylvia Fowles and the Chicago Sky. Score your tickets now for the push into the Playoffs. Click here to purchase, visit The Garden Box Office or call 877-WNBA-TIX.