Aerial Wilson – who plays with Hamilton’s Transway Basketball – reflects on her recent experience as one of 120 invited participants at the NCAA Certified National Girls Skills Select event in Atlanta, Georgia. Aerial was identified by elite basketball skill coach Ganon Baker at the Saltfleet Basketball Camp in July. The Grade 7 student was also chosen as one of top 20 developmental players at the Ontario Basketball U12 Talent Identification and Development Program (TIDP) mega camp this past summer.
I was so excited when an e-mail arrived saying I had been accepted into camp. But not just any summer camp for kids – this was Ganon Baker Basketball: “Congratulations you have been selected to our NCAA College Coach National Girls Event…”
I was thrilled, but I knew I would have to be at my best for this camp; it was time to work. My dad, one of my biggest fans and trainer, helped prepare me for this opportunity, I was out on the court everyday and spent extra time working on all aspect of the game. Strength training was very important, too, knowing that the other girls going to this camp were bigger, faster, stronger, and older with much more experience. When the day to leave arrived, I was ready to go and give it my all.
We arrived early on the first day of camp and got to use the gym. I felt comfortable and confident warming up. When it was time to start, I realized how much older and bigger the other girls were. I might have felt a bit timid at first, but competing against older girls – and boys – along with playing in the United States against mentally stronger and more experienced players had prepared me for this camp more then I imagined.
The motto of the weekend camp is, “Was that my best?” But I personally believe that you can always improve. You can try hard and go 110% to do your best, but the truth is you can always pound the ball harder, rip the ball stronger, jump higher and run faster. Every drill I do I’m always putting in my best effort to get the maximum experience and learning from it.
The first skills session we did was ball handling. I pounded that ball the whole time even when my arm was tired and sore, and to make it harder we had defense hitting our shoulders and forearms as well. We also worked on triple threat and pivot moves, which, along with the offensive drills, was great to learn how to read the defense.
The trainers taught me a lot more about the game and elevated my basketball IQ. We worked on different scenarios of screens, the 2-men and 3-men games, transition, plays off ball movement, and other offenses.
Five-on-five games were one of the best learning experiences of the camp. I was really intimidated at first. These were the best of the best in the United States and most were six years older than me. Each game I improved more and more, learning to play with my size with the help of my instructors and teammates. I felt that I did really well during the course of this camp. It was an amazing opportunity to play alongside some of the best players in the nation: Erykah Davenport, Te’a Cooper, and Lynee Belton are all graduating students this year that I had the pleasure to play with them.
A’ja Wilson was an amazing girl to meet. She told me about sacrifices she made to get where she is today. Reiterating the hard work was Women’s National Basketball League legend Chamique Holdsclaw in a team meeting prior to the Fresh 50 National Game. Although I know I wasn’t ready to play in the big game, I was honored to be a part of it. It felt great to sit beside the best players in basketball today.
Someday I will be one of those players. I had an amazing time and got a lot out of the experience. I can’t wait to improve my game and earn an invitation for next year.