He may not have graduated from Jourdanton, but for Newman University alum Justin Berry, coming back and helping the kids of his childhood home was a special moment.
Berry, a graduate of Lytle High School, ran a camp for The Basketball Embassy at the school he attended from kindergarten on to 10th grade. The camp was meant to build fundamentals and six of the Jourdanton Squaws’ returning starters were in attendance.
“Oh man, it’s pretty cool for me,” Berry said. “I didn’t graduate from here. I was here from kindergarten through 10th grade, so most of my really good friends are from here and it’s where I really started to love basketball. So, to be able to take a break from the overseas stuff, come back and help with development is really cool. It’s kind of a full-circle thing for me. It’s really nice.”
Berry most recently played in the Swedish Superleague, where he led the league in scoring during the 2017-2018 season. During his offseason, he returns home to put on camps like this as part of The Basketball Embassy. He said many of the Jourdanton players have been coming to their camp in San Antonio.
With a background that included stops in the United Kingdom, Germany and Spain before Sweden, Berry sees an immediate buy-in from the athletes who attend his camp. It’s an added benefit that he was once in similar shoes as the kids he coaches around the San Antonio area.
“I think it’s important for kids to be able to relate to a coach,” Berry said. “So, the playing background has a lot to do with it and kids seem to respond to it, seem to respect it. But at the same time, it’s cool that they can see I’m from the same place they are. Whether it’s from San Antonio or Jourdanton, it’s not somebody from some far off place. It’s somebody from their community or their general area that’s been there and done that. For me, half of it is having the experience … the other half is being able to relate to the kids you teach.”
A camp like Berry’s is one Jourdanton head coach Ariana Foster hopes to bring back for years to come. The fundamentals provided by Berry’s camp helps strengthen the foundation Foster’s squad laid last year with a district title.
“It’s super exciting, especially because he’s focusing a lot on the fundamentals and he’s really breaking it down to a T,” Foster said. “So, not only are they learning, they’re learning well. I just think it’s a huge help and we’re gonna try to get him to come every year if we can.”
For incoming senior and defending district 30- 3A Offensive MVP Vanessa Vacca, those fundamentals will go a long way for the Squaws looking to build off their District Championship run in 2019.
“I think a fundamental camp like this is gonna come in handy when we have to go back to the basics during a game and focus on the little things that make our big plays,” Vacca said.
Most coaches believe added reps together will also be a benefit when the season begins. With the University Interscholastic League now allowing two hours of sport specific, non-contact drills, Foster feels her squad is already seeing the benefit.
“Just how many girls we have coming out (is exciting),” said Foster, a Jourdanton alum. “It’s in open gym, it’s in practice. We have structured weights in the morning and we’re just getting a bunch of numbers coming out and getting stronger. Getting back to season won’t be the first time they’ve touched a basketball since last year. They’re getting it almost year-round.
“(The new rule) is a huge, huge help. We have an hour of actual practice and an hour of open gym. They’re all eager to stay for that second hour to put even more work on their own and even more reps. Hopefully, they’ll get some good ideas from this camp to help their workout.”
Vacca feels the camp, summer practices and added reps will help continue to build on the Squaws’ momentum they built in 2019.
“I think it’s a great help to practice with our teammates, upcoming freshman, new incoming sophomores or juniors coming up,” Vacca said. “Working out together as a team before the season is gonna help out once we step out on the court come December.”
Jourdanton was 17-13 last season and fell in the bi-district round of playoffs.