Bouncing balls were heard all day at Blythe Family Fitness on Friday as they hosted for the fourth year the Jeff Hawkins Basketball Camp.

Bouncing balls were heard all day at Blythe Family Fitness on Friday as they hosted for the fourth year the Jeff Hawkins Basketball Camp.

Sponsored by the Blythe as well as corporate contributors Peoples Bank, Pratt Regional Medical Center, Smiley Concrete, BTI and 5 Star Mechanics, the annual event lets Pratt kids get up and and personal with current and former Kansas University basketball players.

Previous camp counselors have included personalities such as Frank Mason III, Cliff Alexander, Landen Lucas and Cheick Diallo.

This year, camp organizer Jeff Hawkins (a former KU player himself) along with Benny Molle (whom Hawkins credits with being his 'right-hand man') brought with them Devonte Graham and Malik Newman of the current Jayhawk roster.

"This year's camp is going great," Kristina Kaufman of the Blythe said between sessions. "Jeff always brings players who are able to relate to the kids really well."

K-3rd grade youngsters took to the courts in the morning, with 4th-12th grade players making up the afternoon session. There were 50+ total hoopsters registered for both sessions, according to Kaufman.

"The kids, especially the younger ones, may not really know who we are by our faces," Hawkins said. "A lot of them weren't even born when I was playing, for example. But most of the older kids recognize the names at least of the current players, like Devonte and Malik."

Hawkins tries to balance skills and fun in his camps. "Yes, we show them fundamentals," Hawkins explained. "But if the camp isn't fun, the kids might not want to play basketball as they get older. So we try to balance teaching skills with having fun."

"When the parents ask the kids 'did you have fun at the camp' we want the answer to be 'yes', so maybe they'll come back to the camp next year," Hawkins continued. "But at the same time, we want them to learn some things that will help them play better on down the road. There are some core values that are crucial. Their minds are like sponges at this age, so we try to teach them as much as we can and also explain the 'why' of things so maybe it'll stick with them."

Pratt is the fourth stop on Hawkins' camp circuit this summer, having previously visited Hays, Plainville and Salina. After Pratt, the camp heads to Goodland.

When asked what he and the other counselors get out of putting on the camps, Hawkins laughed, "Well, for one thing, I get to lose a few pounds chasing after the kids. I get a workout doing something I enjoy!"

"But," he went on, "the main thing is giving back. At KU we are taught to respect those who came before, and to give back to the guys who are coming after. All of us coming up had leaders and mentors, and this is our way of giving back."

It was a fun, instructional and inspirational day at Blythe Family Fitness, and hopes were high the event will be repeated next summer.