ST. THOMAS — When Destinee John-Baptiste first heard about the “UA Next” women’s basketball camp being held in the territory, she immediately knew she wanted to be a part of it for two reasons.
“I like to play basketball – and I wanted to meet Aliyah,” said John-Baptiste, 13, of St. Thomas.
Of course, that was what each of the 50 college and high school players attending Friday’s camp wanted — to meet South Carolina star and St. Thomas native Aliyah Boston, and also learn a few things about basketball. .
Either way, the Under Armour-sponsored camp at the University of the Virgin Islands Sports and Fitness Center was a resounding success, even by the standards of a consensus national player of the year and tournament champion. NCAA.
“I think it went well,” Boston said later Friday after both sessions of camp ended. “It was a great first camp. All the girls had fun. It was great and they learned a lot.
“Honestly, I think it all went pretty well,” she added. “We made a camp sheet of what we wanted to do and we were able to execute everything we did. I wouldn’t change a thing – I think our preparation before every camp in the future will continue to be as good as this one.
And Boston walked a lot.
While much of the instruction was handled by coaches and former players – both from the local ranks like Wayne Harvey, who had previously trained many players at Friday’s camp, and from the United States, like Sydney Johnson, the Air Force associate head coach and former head coach at Princeton and Fairfield–Boston was an important presence on the field.
Moving from station to station as the players performed dribbling, passing and defensive drills, Boston was there – shouting instructions, giving advice or encouraging young players.
“I learned that I was a pretty good coach,” she said. “Just being able to walk around and give the girls different advice, what to do, how to do different exercises. I was just cheering them on and having a lot of fun with them.
And the players watched and listened – and thought about their future.
“She’s an inspiration to me because she plays basketball like me, and it makes me feel like maybe I can be something, coming from the same island as her,” John said. -Baptiste, student at the Montessori School of the Virgin Islands and Peter Gruber International Academy.
“I learned that I wasn’t always going to be good; some days you’re gonna be worse than others. You just have to be patient with yourself. »
Jean-Baptiste was not alone in this feeling.
“Aliyah inspires me to push harder in life,” said La’Kaisah Graham, 12, a student at St. Mary’s Catholic School in St. Croix. “I really want to do this next year.”
“He’s someone who represents the Virgin Islands,” J’Niaa Celestine, a student at Ivanna Eudora Kean High School, said of Boston. “She came and brought home a championship with her. I think I might do it in the future. He’s someone to look up to.
Having such a program as the UA Next camp was a dream come true for Boston, who had nothing like it growing up in St. Thomas — and having to play against the boys.
Now the parents are happy that she was instrumental in creating such an opportunity in the territory.
“I know she really loves basketball,” said Darren John-Baptiste, Destinee’s father. “It’s a good thing. Basketball is a sport that both boys and girls can play – and some girls show more talent than boys. That’s definitely a good thing.