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JJ Anderson basketball camp teaches life lessons to Peoria kids

PEORIA (HOI) — Mitchell “JJ” Anderson has been running the same camp for more than 20 years, but the message has stayed the same: get better at hoops and get better at life.

“We like to provide a safe environment in today’s times,” Jon Davis Jr., the camp director and local firefighter, said. “It’s tough out here, so one of the things we’re really about is providing kids a place that’s safe.”

Anderson is a Bradley alum who played three seasons in the NBA, mostly for the Utah Jazz. He and the late Dana Davis, a Peoria native and former NBA executive, have lent their names to the camp since the late 1990’s. (There’s no relation between Davis Jr. and the late Davis.)

The camp is free to anyone who’s interested in attending. Davis Jr. says it is a basketball camp first and foremost, but there are messages the kids can come away with that can improve their lives on the court and off it.

“What we want kids to take away from this is positivity mainly,” he said. “If you come here and you work hard and you put in the work you can see positive changes in your life.”

The camp runs through Thursday, and the kids will go through drills and get nutritional counseling.

“We want them to understand that to be a good athlete you have to take care of yourself,” Michelle Sheppard says. She’s on the camp’s board. “What you put in your body and how much sleep you get [matters].”

The camp’s attractive (lack of) cost means it has several kids who are annual staples of the event from ages 8-14. “[My three grandkids] love coming down here,” Jamie Brady said. “They always get to see some old friends and make some new friends.”

She says her family no longer lives in the city but they always come back for this camp since what’s good for the Peoria is good for surrounding communities. She appreciates the lessons her grandchildren are learning between the lines and out of them.

‘Discipline, integrity, sacrifice. Those are things you need not only on the basketball court but also in life,” Davis Jr. said.

Event registration for this week’s camp has come and gone, but you can keep track of the event on its Facebook page.

Bobby Oler @bobbyoler

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