Justin Clifton was just hired as the new Del Norte girls varsity basketball head coach in June, and before ever coaching the Warriors’ top team he is already working to cultivate the next round of Warrior girls on the hardwood.

Last week, less than a month after taking over the Del Norte program, Clifton put together a Del Norte girls basketball camp which brought in a total of 51 players to hone their skills on the basketball court. The camp, which raises money for the girls high school program, is similar to camps run by the football, volleyball and tennis programs throughout the summer.

“Ever since I got the JV job a couple years ago, I could not believe that were wasn’t even a boys camp,” Clifton said. “I know it is hard to get people to help in the summer and everything, but my assistant coaches and I decided to do a girls camp.”

Although Clifton wasn’t sure what kind of turnout to expect in the camp’s first summer, the youth in Del Norte County turned out in droves for the camp.

“We were expecting about 25 kids, but we are at 51 by the end of the camp,” Clifton said. “It is our first year doing it and we have gotten pretty good help from the high school girls and girls going into high school. Next year I am expecting to double our participation. Girls basketball is flat out exploding in this town right now.”

In addition to Clifton’s high school coaching staff, the campers were also instructed by members of the Del Norte High School girls basketball program. Although Clifton is in his first year coaching the varsity team, he coached the junior varsity team for the last two years while also coaching Crescent Elk’s eighth grade and a Del Norte AAU girls team. So most of the players in the high school program are already somewhat familiar with Clifton as a coach.

“It is really cool to watch the girls that I have taught how to do stuff, teach the younger girls how to do stuff,” Clifton said.

Clifton said the goal of the camp is to instill proper basketball fundamentals into the next generation of Warrior basketball players.

“What is awesome is that you are teaching the youngsters the correct way to do stuff — the great fundamentals of basketball and defense,” Clifton said. “If you leave it to them they are just going to play all day long, but we break it down.

“We start the morning with stretches and we do some defensive slides. Then we break into groups and we rotate through. We have offensive days, defensive days and Friday was more of a fun day with a pizza party and some shootouts and things like that.”

While the last day of camp was reserved largely as a fun day for the campers, Clifton said he made sure to allow the campers plenty of opportunities to have a good time throughout the camp.

“It is funny because when you ask the older kids what they want to do, it is play basketball all day long,” Clifton said. “When you ask the younger kids what they want to do, they want to have a dance party. So every hour we have a little dance party with the younger group. We made sure that that they were always having fun.”

Clifton said he is hoping that the camp will continue to be held during the summer for years to come. He also mentioned the possibility of adding boys for next summer and teaming up with the Warriors boys program. Clifton said he would also like to hold another skills camp for Del Norte youngsters prior to the Del Norte County Recreation Department’s youth basketball season this year.

Reach Michael Zogg at mzogg@triplicate.com.

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