2014-'15 Season Coverage
Article updated: 8/4/2013 8:48 PM
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Doug Bruno Camp a rite of passage for generations of basketball players
 

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Doug Bruno Camp a rite of passage for generations of basketball players
  • Enjoying their experience at Doug Bruno's basketball camp this summer were, from left, Brooke Karpinske, Liz Schram, Kelsey McGraw, Gabby Rogalovich and Mercedes Uribe.

    Purchase Photo | Enjoying their experience at Doug Bruno's basketball camp this summer were, from left, Brooke Karpinske, Liz Schram, Kelsey McGraw, Gabby Rogalovich and Mercedes Uribe. Patricia Babcock McGraw | Staff Photographer

  •  Doug Bruno has been running his girls basketball camps for 37 years. Campers this summer included, from left, Gabby Rogalovich, Mercedes Uribe, Brooke Karpinske, Liz Schram and Kelsey McGraw.

    Purchase Photo | Doug Bruno has been running his girls basketball camps for 37 years. Campers this summer included, from left, Gabby Rogalovich, Mercedes Uribe, Brooke Karpinske, Liz Schram and Kelsey McGraw. Patricia Babcock McGraw | Staff Photographer

 

My 10-year-old daughter Kelsey spent part of Saturday afternoon outside shooting on our backyard hoop with her blue-and-white striped Doug Bruno Camp basketball.

"I kind of miss camp today," Kelsey told me.

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Usually, Kelsey won't go out to shoot by herself. She needs a friend, or her brother Matthew, or me or her dad to play with her. This time she just went solo, no pushing or prodding or even suggesting from anyone.

She simply announced that she was going outside to shoot.

I wonder how many other girls from camp were doing the same thing, just one day removed from their four-day, overnight adventure at North Central College in Naperville.

I also wonder if Kelsey or any of the other 200 girls in attendance there this past week realize that they are now part of a rich basketball history in these parts.

The Doug Bruno girls basketball camp is essentially a Chicago institution, a rite of passage for multiple generations of young area players. Bruno, the longtime women's basketball head coach at DePaul, has been running his summer basketball camps for 37 years now with his business partner David Rosengard, the athletic director at Niles West High School.

Together, they have turned thousands of local girls into better basketball players, if not college standouts and even professionals -- such as WNBA stars Candace Parker and Tamika Catchings.

The fact that Bruno's camps are thriving at a time when other college camps are dying because of competition from AAU and travel teams speaks to their popularity and timelessness.

"We run a really good camp. I mean, what can I say? We take it very seriously," said Bruno, who teaches every drill himself and has missed only four weeks of camp in 37 years, three to coach the gold-medal winning Olympic team last summer and one to coach a junior Olympic team.

Bruno estimates that he has spent three full years of his life instructing kids at camp. On average, about 1,300 kids have been Bruno campers each summer since 1977. The camp ran six different four-day sessions this summer alone.

"The fact that we're putting a product out there that lets me sleep very well at night and lets the parents know that they're getting their money's worth keeps our camp strong," Bruno said.

"We are always tinkering with things to make camp better, but we've also found a format and drills and a way of teaching that has proven to be time-proof.

"Every year, we try to give the kids the best product and the best service for the best price."

I spent some time in Naperville at the Bruno camp last week and was amazed by the order and organization. The days run like clockwork, starting with a morning session that is devoted almost exclusively to the fundamentals, everything from shooting form to ballhandling to pivoting.

"We (Doug and his staff) just got off the road from recruiting and we saw a lot of great players and great teams play un-great, un-fundamental basketball on the travel circuit," Bruno said. "A lot of great players are playing a lot of bad basketball because the fundamentals are not there in AAU and travel ball.

"Kids need to learn the fundamentals of basketball at a young age and this (camp) is a great teaching laboratory."

At Bruno camp, the girls are divided into teams with different colored T-shirts and each team has a specific spot on the floor to stand for drills. When all the girls are in their respective lines and spaced perfectly, and Bruno runs them from drill to drill and they respond in perfect unison, the sight is impressive, like the basketball version of a flash mob.

"We were playing basketball eight hours a day. In drills, I learned how to do behind-the-back and crossovers," said 12-year-old Brooke Karpinske, one of Kelsey's teammates from the feeder team I coach in northern Lake County.

Joining Kelsey and Brooke at camp were three other girls from our feeder team: Gabby Rogalovich, Mercedes Uribe and Liz Schram, all 12-year-olds.

As I watched them work through their drills and play their games, I could tell that they were improving more and more each day.

"I'm excited to be here, so I've been practicing my shots a lot," Rogalovich said. "I think I've gotten better."

Brooke wound up winning an award for jump-shooting and Mercedes and Liz were on a team that won a division championship on the last day. They went home with a lot of hardware.

Everyone went home with a smile.

"I liked the 5-on-5 scrimmages and the spider dribble. I had no idea how to do that and now I know," Kelsey said. "I learned hook shots and all these offensive moves.

"I was impressed by how we learned to be in our lecture positions and our ballhandling positions and how (Bruno) made us yell all these sayings back to him."

The most popular saying at Bruno basketball camp is, "Basketball! I love it! I love it! I love it!" It's the official slogan of the camp, and the girls constantly yell it back to Bruno throughout the day.

My bet is a lot of girls in this area are loving basketball a whole lot more now than they did before they got to Bruno Camp last week.

•Follow Patricia on Twitter: @babcockmcgraw

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