The first time Ellison head coach Sherry McKinnon met Francesca Patrick, the future team MVP was a camper at her Lady Eagles Basketball Camp.
On Monday, after two district titles won together, Patrick was a coach at the eighth annual Lady Eagles Basketball Camp, which will continue today and Wednesday from 8:30 a.m. to noon at Ellison High School.
While it is nice to have former players back, like Patrick — who will head to Our Lady of the Lake University in the fall — Louisiana-Monroe center Alayshia Hunter and Schreiner guards Chris Jones and Codi Simmons, McKinnon said what is also a treat is meeting the future of Killeen basketball, even if they don’t go on to be Lady Eagles.
Of course, it also doesn’t hurt when they do.
“Bri’anna (Gray), she came to my camp,” McKinnon said of one of her returning starters. “A lot of the kids now, Madison (Hattix-Covington), I remember them little at camp.
“To get to remember them and see their faces and see them grow (is neat). I can’t believe my first meeting with (Patrick) was at camp.”
For McKinnon, a longtime coach at Liberty Hill Middle School before taking over as head coach at Ellison, the camp is also a return to her roots as she gets to work with younger girls than she normally does at Ellison.
But McKinnon takes it all in stride having had success at both levels.
“You have to break it down on their level,” McKinnon said. “But it’s fun because I’ve been there and they understand.
“To have a little kindergartner who wants to play basketball? That’s very exciting. They’re starting at the right age and trying to get some things done. So it’s really neat.”
Yet McKinnon said it does help to have the former players on hand to demonstrate what she is teaching to the young campers.
And for the former Lady Eagles, the opportunity to help out young players — as their peers once did for them — is one they don’t take for granted.
“I love giving back to the kids because I had a lot of help when I was here,” said Hunter, who is coaching at the camp for the second straight year. “So if I can help these kids, that’d be perfect.”
And when all of the former players come together, it forms a reminder of the family environment that McKinnon and her players have cultivated, and will continue to cultivate, for years to come — perhaps one day with these same campers
“The other night we kind of had a reunion because (former District MVP Kenesha) Saygo was in a car accident this weekend, so when I go to her house, who’s there? The whole basketball team. Even the ones from this year were there trying to make sure she was OK,” McKinnon said. “It’s really neat. I love it.
“It made me feel like a proud mother that they’re taking care of each other still.”