CULVER — The Zeller name is currently one of the biggest in basketball, and organizers plan to bring to bring some of that excitement to Culver June 5 through 7 for a Zeller family-sponsored youth camp open to anyone entering 4th through 9th grade.
Sponsored by the Zeller family’s Distinxion (distinxion.org) organization, the overnight camp will take place on the campus of Culver Academies and will give youngsters an opportunity to spend some time with NBA players, college and high school coaches, and other area and regional standouts and learn not only some basketball skills, but skills in the area of character development as well.
“When the ball stops bouncing, the person continues,” says Luke Zeller, who just finished his first season with NBA team the Phoenix Suns. “So at the camp we work on basketball and on character — we develop both together.”
Though he’s not visited the campus of Culver Academies before, Zeller says he’s heard about its beauty and quality from his former Suns coach, Alvin Gentry, alumni Chet Marshall, and others.
“I’m excited to be there,” he says. “It sounds like a great venue.”
The venue, in fact, is much of the reason for the Culver camp’s status as one of the few of Distinxion’s camps in Indiana this year to be an overnight — rather than a one-day — camp. Meals and overnight accommodations will be provided for attendees, who will spend over 20 hours of court time during the camp.
“Overnight camps have a greater, longer-lasting impact on basketball skills and character development in our youth,” Zeller explained.
According to camp director Bryce Bow, campers “will get to bunk in cabins, eat great food, and enjoy the beauty of the Culver campus in early summer while enjoying the game of basketball in first class facilities.”
While Bow notes the camp staff is still being finalized, “we will have members of the Zeller family, former and current college and pro players, current high school coaches and players, and an overall top-notch staff who loves basketball and helpings kids through the game.”
The Zellers are the only family in basketball history to boast three different Mr. Basketball winners, and Luke says he and his brothers — Cleveland Cavaliers NBA player Tyler and Cody, who recently completed a successful basketball career at Indiana University and has entered the NBA draft — hope to be able to attend the camp, but if they can’t, they’d like to interface with students via the two-way audio-visual technology of Google Hangout.
He notes his parents will help lead the camp and will even interact with students’ parents during the Family Night portion of the camp. He added the camp staff overall is “really good — great with kids and families.” There’s an unusually high, four to one camper-to-adult ratio at the camp.
The cost of the camp is $400 for overnight attendees and $300 for “commuters,” which includes a t-shirt, lodging, meals, and, of course, camp instruction. There is a sibling discount of $350 and $250, and there are a limited number of scholarships available for area students.
Culver Academies basketball coach Mark Galloway, who coached against Luke Zeller in 2005 during Galloway’s stint as Carmel High School coach, and against Cody Zeller when Culver Academies played against his team in the Class 3A state basketball championships, says the Zeller family is “strong in their faith; they’re high character student-athletes and Academic All-Americans.”
He also points out the values promoted in the family’s camps “align really well with what Culver is trying to do in pursuing excellence in character and in sports. That’s why we’re excited to have this camp on our campus.”
Another local angle involves Randy Davis, now an assistant coach at Culver, who was a star player for Plymouth High School during the legendary 2007 state championship game in which Luke Zeller made a half-court shot in the game’s final moments to defeat Big Red. The two will hopefully come together in Culver next month.
Among other camp leaders, Galloway says Jermaine Myers and Cheir Ajou, both star players on the Academies’ team which faced off against Cody Zellers at the state championship in 2011, are expected to be there.
The camp, Galloway points out, makes for a great opportunity for kids from all over the county and state to benefit from Culver’s “global outreach.”
And for Luke Zeller, the camp is a chance to share the opportunities he was given.
“I had so many great opportunities growing up here,” he says. “I want to give something back to kids in Indiana.”