Ten years ago, Morgan Stroman sent in an application to participate in the Hoopology basketball camp at Eau Claire.
“She was my first girl to apply, and I couldn’t even have a girls camp that year,” remembers camp director James Abrams. This week, the camp’s seventh, more than 80 girls played basketball at the camp, and Stroman was on the camp’s staff.
She was among several Hoopology alumni to return to Eau Claire and share their knowledge with the area’s future girls basketball stars. Stroman, Janae Stevenson, Alexis Foulks and Jontay Mitchum worked alongside the coaches who once trained them – Precious Caldwell, JoJo English, Debbie Stroman and Bobby Young among them, They provided instruction, directed drills and demonstrated skills.
“After all these coaches raised me, I have to give back,” said Foulks, a recent Columbia High graduate who is headed to Georgia Southern next week. “Now I get to work out with the people I used to look up to.”
Sharita Godfrey, a rising freshman at Richland Northeast and daughter of Cavaliers assistant coach Bob Godfrey, said she was excited to get tips on defense from Stroman.
“All of these players here, I think I learned from them,” Godfrey said.
“It’s kind of like my family,” said Stroman, who attended the camp for six years. “I feel like I’m still one of the kids, still out there playing.”
Stroman has played overseas in Finland and Spain since graduating from Miami in 2013. She will travel to Romania to play in August, but she is home for the summer and felt it was important to devote this week to giving back.
“I know when I was young, a lot of people tried to show me things to help me, so I need to show these girls, too,” Stroman said. “I’ve just been taking drills from college, game situations, things that they can use to elevate their game.”
It is no coincidence that girls basketball in South Carolina and its capital has been on the rise in recent years, or that two of the state’s four McDonald’s All-Americans in the past six years – Stroman and Spring Valley’s Xylina McDaniel – once were Hoopology campers.
“Programs like ours and (USC) coach Dawn Staley’s have helped the city, and it has raised the bar for these girls,” Abrams said.
And it has put hundreds of young girls in the presence of greatness.
“When we were younger, we had to have somebody to look up to, and these girls have to have that, too,” said Mitchum, a Ridge View graduate who is headed to Western Carolina on a scholarship. “You get a starry-eyed feeling when you look at them and see how good they can be.”
Abrams said the willingness of the camp’s alumni to return as counselors “speaks volumes about what we do and what we can do,” Abrams said.
After 13 years running Hoopology – the 13th annual camp for boys will run the same program June 23-26 – Abrams and his staff have got basketball training down to a science.
“It’s not about gender,” Abrams said. “It’s an education.”