With pump-up music bouncing around Brownstown Central High School’s sunken basketball gymnasium and an emcee encouraging teams called “honesty” and “motivation” over a loudspeaker, basketball teams comprised of boys and girls go up against their counselors on the hardwood.
The second- through fifth-graders go up by two points, and the counselors call a timeout.
With eight seconds left, all of the campers sprint onto the court to take on their much taller opponents and secure a victory.
DistinXion, a traveling basketball camp run by the Zeller family, conducted a camp in Brownstown for the first time Wednesday.
The first group took the floor in the late morning. A sixth- through eighth-grade group followed after an hour break.
Jonah Persinger, a 2013 BCHS graduate and current Indiana University student, is a camp director, director of basketball development and intern with DistinXion. He said the camp offers much more than top-notch basketball training.
“Our mission statement is we’re an elite basketball training, character development camp, and we want to take campers and their families on their next step on their journey with Jesus Christ,” Persinger said.
“Each camp, we try to do stations. We have teams split up with our C.H.A.M.P.S. acronym, so we have teams character, honesty, attitude, motivation, perseverance and serving others. They rotate with shooting, ball-handling, core work, passing and havoc. Havoc is when they learn to take charges and dive for loose balls and stuff like that.”
The two sessions set up a number of stations. With the older kids, the camp increases the difficulty but involves similar drills.
DistinXion conducts one- and three-day camps at various cities and towns throughout the year.
The program travels to new areas every summer in hopes of eventually running a three-day camp.
Around 23 children attended the younger camp at Brownstown, while the older kids hosted 15 players.
Eight counselors, mostly from Indiana University, worked with the children.
“I wanted for them to have a one-day camp at Brownstown,” Persinger said. “We put in a word with Principal Joe Sheffer. The camp decided it would be good to come to some of our hometowns. They like southern Indiana a lot since (the Zellers) grew up down in Washington. The atmosphere is their favorite.
“Brownstown doesn’t get a lot of stuff like this. Coach (Dave) Benter and (Karla) Rieckers have their camps, but there isn’t much others besides things put on by the community. Our hope with the one-day (camp) is that we will have enough campers where we can come back and host a three-day camp.”
Luke Zeller, founder and president of DistinXion, said while it’s nice to conduct camps around the country, southern Indiana is special to his family.
After playing basketball at Washington High School, Zeller played at the University of Notre Dame before landing an opportunity to play in the NBA.
“Those opportunities wouldn’t have happened without people giving their time and helping me along the way,” Zeller said. “We’re just trying to give back in the same way.”
While teaching basketball skills at the camp is important, Zeller said it’s important to teach kids about character, too.
“Basketball is great. It’s the best way to learn so many life lessons,” he said. “Now that I’m done playing, it’s who you are as a person.”
Persinger is one of 20 involved in the summer internship program, which allows them to learn office responsibilities and coach at camps. For the past two years, he was a volunteer with DistinXion.
“It’s such a good group of people,” Zeller said of the interns. “It’s an unpaid internship, but they get their money’s worth. They work hard. It makes you know there are people that can make a difference.”
As coaches at camp, Zeller said the interns often share their own personal stories about a variety of topics, and they become role models for the kids.
“For us to be able to give back to the families and kids, there’s nothing better,” Zeller said.
Persinger said he has seen the camp allow new opportunities in communities that don’t typically have basketball camps.
“I love the mission that we’re doing, making connections with the kids,” Persginer said. “We went to inner-city Cincinnati (June) 11 through the 13, and it was eye-opening. Seeing some of the kids there and hearing their stories, it opens my heart to them. I want to help them out in the little ways that we can.”
Persinger said the religious aspect of the camp doesn’t interfere with kids from different faiths from attending and that everyone is encouraged to come out and play.
“We know everyone is different with their faith journey. Not everyone believes or made that decision to become a Christian,” Persinger said. “We’re fine with that. We hope that we can show Christ’s work through our camps. We’re not going to force it down anyone’s throat or anything, but we are available to talk with them about that.”
By the end of the session, many of the kids were seen cheering one another on and giving each other high-fives.
“One of my favorite parts about camp is seeing the camaraderie built,” Persinger said. “The ones who are getting it are helping the ones who aren’t. It’s a really positive atmosphere, so if you aren’t as skilled, we want everybody to come.”
For information about DistinXion basketball camps, visit distinxion.org.