For the second-straight year, the Licking Basketball Camps have taken over several Mexico athletic venues so that middle school, junior varsity and varsity boys and girls hoops squads from all across the state and beyond could meet up and face off for two days of some rather intense full-court scrimmages.
The one difference from a year ago is, just like Lady Bulldogs Varsity Girls Basketball Coach Ed Costley mentioned previously, because of the number of teams that signed up for the event there will only be one days of boys competition. Other than that the action began Thursday and wraps up today just like it did in 2018.
"We're excited so far. We're excited about the number of girls teams. Over 20. It's working out well for us because we're finishing up with summer school," Costley said. "There have been times when we've gone to Licking down in Rolla or at The Lake and those schools are having summer school while they're having the camp. I've always wondered how they do that with everything going on. This time frame works for us because no one else is in the building."
According to https://lickingcamps.com, the philosophy behind these events began when several coaches felt they saw a pattern of college basketball coaches organizing and operating poorly run camps and clinics for boys and girls that were also overpriced. At the same time these events don't do anyone any good if a squad is constantly winning or losing by a wide margin.
"On the girls side, Spokane is coming. Several St. Louis area teams. I think Spokane is also bringing their boys team," said Costley. "We also have Pittsfield, Smithville and some other teams we don't hear a whole lot about like Piasa, which is from Illinois, I believe. We've got two or three teams coming from Illinois and a couple from St. Louis, and those are the teams we aren't used to seeing."
As for what set the Licking Camps apart from other, similar offerings, their website states the event is designed to be fun for coaches and players by way of atmosphere. They also claim to hire the best possible officials so all the athletes have to worry about is playing ball.
"With coach Pappas on the boys side, they didn't get the numbers they were hoping to, but Jefferson City did put a team in, which is pretty stiff competition," Costley said. "Thursday was the only day we had boys game. We also had girls games (Thursday). Friday is girls only. On the girls side some of the other teams we've added are North Callaway, Macon and Southern Boone. We'd like to get the boys side to two days. Not sure if its just too late in the summer based on teams workouts and plans."
Today the action will be a little different because a tournament begins at 12:15 p.m. in high school gymnasium number two and middle school gymnasium number one. Tournament competition doesn't start until 1:00 p.m. in high school gym number one and middle school gym number two. The regulation contests begin at 10:00 a.m. and most end starting at 11:30 a.m. with the exception of two matchups.
"Teams only have 20 contact days altogether. You have to pick and choose what you want to be a part of," said Costley. "When I look at the girls side I see we have more varsity teams. Last year we had a large number or junior high squads. That wasn't really surprising because there aren't a lot of junior high specific shootouts that take place. Generally they have to go to Mizzou or a college-based team camp. It's interesting to see how things have flipped around."
Those final scrimmages today at 12:15 p.m. before the tourney starts will feature Mexico Junior High number four in High School Gym one vs Smithville JV five and in Middle School Gym two Linn JV five plays Southern Boone Junior High six. Some of the other games to watch include Mexico JV five vs Linn JV four at 10 a.m. at Middle School gym two and at 11:30 a.m. Mexico five faces Visitation four in High School gym two.
"This event allows us to showcase what we have. We have a lot of gyms and facilities here in Mexico," Costley said. "We also have a really good fan base, and I think that was one of the things that really caught the eyes of the people who run these Licking Camps. They said, 'When we came here last year, we don't normally see the number of spectators to come out and watch these games', and I think that had to do with the area schools we had like North Callaway and Montgomery County."