Wilsonville basketball coach Chris Roche makes sure aspiring Wildcats learn how to play fundamentally sound basketball.

by: COREY BUCHANAN - Joe Nieting pulls up for a jumper during the Wilsonville basketball camp.

About an hour into the final day of the Wilsonville Wildcats basketball camp, a group of 150 campers were weary of drills and eager to test their skills in full-court scrimmages.

However, Wilsonville coach Chris Roche had something different in mind.

After telling the kids they were going to practice another drill, a “scrimmage, scrimmage,” chant broke out.

But after the protests lulled and a Wilsonville high school basketball player demonstrated the drill, where he attempted three shots in a row from various points on the floor, the kids abided coach Roche’s instruction.

And if they want to see the court one day for Wilsonville, listening to Roche might be step one on the path to varsity basketball.

The Wilsonville basketball program doesn’t begin when players reach the high school ranks. Instead, Roche has built an establishment that encompasses aspiring hoopers in middle school and elementary school as well.

So far, his youth inclusive approach has yielded impressive results.

Since Roche took over the head-coaching job 12 years ago, Wilsonville has made 11 state tournaments and won seven league titles. Last year, despite advising a squad led by three underclassmen starters, the Wildcats finished sixth in Oregon.

Through the Wilsonville Basketball Association, Roche keeps tabs on all of Wilsonville’s youth basketball teams.

“We try to get to at least one of every youth team’s games and we host a youth tournament that all of our youth teams play in,” he said.

He added: “We keep an eye on our kids.”

It is not difficult to find out the trajectory of past campers. One simply needs to watch the Wilsonville High basketball team.

“Our youth program is strong. Probably every kid on our team has been to out camp,” Roche said.

At the camp, Roche runs shooting, passing, rebounding and dribbling drills.

“We’re trying to help kids learn some skills and show them some things that can help them grow,” he said.

Coach Roche also stresses an aspect of basketball oft forgotten at the run of the mill hoops camp: defensive strategy.

“We show them how we defend the pick and roll and how we defend certain sets. If we can get it into these kids heads early, even if they don’t understand all of it, we’re one step ahead,” he said.

Roche said regardless of a player’s talent, if they don’t buy into the Wilsonville way, they likely won’t have much staying power in the program.

“If you don’t play hard, you aren’t committed to team and you don’t play defense, it is going to be hard to make it in our program.”

But amidst the skill and character development, Roche makes room for fun as well.

For instance, on the final day, campers took part in a dance party.

“We try to have fun too. We want the kids to know that we like them,” Roche said.

Campers Zack Rivers and Finlay Dunn expressed adoration for the camp and coach Roche.

“I love this camp. It’s my favorite camp all summer. It’s a lot more fun to be here instead of sitting at home,” Rivers said. He added: “I like how coach is really enthusiastic and he’s never let down and he’s fun to be around.”

Dunn said: “All of the contests are really fun and when you get into league games it gets really competitive and fun.”

But the dances, competitions and drills have one central purpose.

Roche said: “We want to help them pursue what we hope is a dream, which is to play for us one day.”

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