Annual Detroit Pistons Academy fills ‘hunger’ for basketball with camps in Traverse City for the first time


The Detroit Pistons Academy finished its series of summer basketball camps last week in Traverse City, which was the first time the Pistons brought the annual camp to the city known more for cherries than basketball.

Providing the three-day camp for children in northern Michigan is a big step for the Pistons Academy, Director of Youth Engagement and Development Aaron Smith said recently.

“There’s a hunger for basketball up north, especially in the younger generations,” Smith said. “We noticed that and just wanted to help them out with a great experience; this was an opportunity to show Traverse City what we got and make bigger opportunities from there.

“It’s pretty cool that we started the camps in Southfield and are ending somewhere cool like Traverse City and have been everywhere in between the two. Overall, it’s been a great summer and we have had the highest enrollment in the camps history.”

The trip to Traverse City was the result of Grand Traverse Resort and Spa’s decision to use portable flooring to convert building spaces into basketball courts. The facility held AAU tournaments for the first time this winter, so it was only natural for the Pistons to bring their camps to the facility.

For Smith, who has coached basketball for 15 years, it’s a good time to spread the word of Pistons basketball with excitement around young standouts like Cade Cunningham, Saddiq Bey and rookies Jaden Ivey and Jalen Duren.

“It’s really one of the first (basketball) events there having so it just made sense,” Smith said of Traverse City. “Who knows? Maybe we can have a Traverse City Night at a Pistons game. Maybe it turns into promotional opportunities, marketing opportunities, both there and here.”

The Pistons Academy, which is sponsored by Kroger, is a youth basketball program available for boys and girls in third through ninth grades. This year, the camps were conducted in 17 facilities across Michigan to serve sessions to more than 1,600 children.

Each day of the program consisted of professional instruction with an emphasis on fundamentals during the morning hours followed by full-court games and contests in the afternoon.

All youngsters who participated received an exclusive Pistons Academy T-shirt, a personalized skill-evaluation report card, a complimentary ticket to a Pistons game for the upcoming season. Campers were surprised by visits from Pistons personalities.

“We have a great coaching staff who teaches the game very well, but I think it’s a lot of just using it to teach the game of life and put these kids in different situations,” Smith said. “We teach them how to win, how to lose, and how to be a good teammate.

“For us, we want to make sure the kids have fun, make sure they improve their basketball skills, but more importantly make sure they learn some life lessons.” For more information about the Pistons Academy, click here.

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