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CHAMPAIGN — The inaugural NCAA Basketball Academy will begin in earnest Tuesday morning.
That’s when 140 athletes from 13 different states are scheduled to descend on basketball courts at the ARC for just the beginning of three days worth of individual instruction and skill development, education and life skill seminars and game competition. The second session of the academy — with 137 more athletes scheduled to participate — starts Friday with all the same events.
All of the drills and some games will be held at the ARC. The players will also get a chance to play at Ubben Basketball Complex and State Farm Center. Leading the academy is former Cleveland State and Rutgers coach Gary Waters as commissioner. He’s joined on the academy staff by Murry Bartow (UCLA, East Tennessee State and UAB), Joe Harrington (Colorado and Long Beach State), Billy Owens (Rutgers-Camden and Syracuse), Melvin Watkins (Missouri, Texas A&M and Charlotte) and Jerry Dunn (Penn State and Tuskegee).
The NCAA Basketball Academy is the latest addition to the recruiting calendar. Coaches will be able to attend the camp in Champaign — along with others at UConn, Houston and Grand Canyon — for an evaluation period running Tuesday through Sunday.
Illinois basketball director of operations Joey Biggs worked with the NCAA in an advisory in the spring in the run up to the start of the academy this week. Brian Walsh, who is the summer camp director for the DIA, was also involved.
“We showed them the facilities, and they said, ‘We’d like this, or we want to do that,’” Biggs said. “They came here and visited two or three different times, and then we went to Indianapolis in April and met and talked through things. They had all the schools from all four sites come to Indianapolis for basically a two-day summit to talk through the good, bad and different.
“They are trying to kind of run it like a championship because that’s where the expertise is. It’s going in a good direction. There’s going to be some hiccups this first year because they’ve never done camps before.”
Biggs said Walsh has been critical in assisting the NCAA from a logistical standpoint. While Illinois is the host university for the academy, the NCAA is running it.
“Brian Walsh is unbelievable with housing and insurance and all the detail things,” Biggs said. “He’s been really good about, ‘Have you thought about this?’ in getting (athletes) into housing, getting them into food and getting them back and forth. (The NCAA) listened a lot to what we had to say. I think from a logistical standpoint it’s going to go pretty smooth.”
The games at State Farm Center will be open to the public. Four games will be played on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday with tip times of 3:20 p.m., 4:55 p.m., 7:35 p.m. and 9:10 p.m. Two games on Thursday and Sunday at 9:20 a.m. and 10:55 a.m. will also be open.
The West Grand Entrance at State Farm Center will open at 2:30 p.m. for the afternoon/evening slate of games and 8:30 a.m. for the morning session days. Per the university, standard clear bag policy applies to the public.