MAKING CUBS: First-year Madison boys basketball coach Cliff Hawkins (above) wrapped up a camp for future Cubs at the high school on Thursday. Hawkins, along with senior Dylan Bilz (below) go over fundamentals with the largely junior high group of players. Hawkins went over his vision for the future with campers and their parents. (Staff photos by David Campbell)
MAKING CUBS: First-year Madison boys basketball coach Cliff Hawkins (above) wrapped up a camp for future Cubs at the high school on Thursday. Hawkins, along with senior Dylan Bilz (below) go over fundamentals with the largely junior high group of players. Hawkins went over his vision for the future with campers and their parents. (Staff photos by David Campbell)
Cliff Hawkins wrapped up his first basketball camp as boys head coach at Madison Consolidated High School by breaking down how he hopes the next 10 years will unfold. Starting with the third-grade class, Hawkins and his staff plan on exposing youngsters to the right way of playing basketball and going up to the high school level.

"I don't know how long I'll be here, but I'd like to think at least 10 years," Hawkins told the parents of his young campers. "We're going to build a program that expects to contend for Hoosier Hills Conference championships. We expect to contend for sectional titles. And I fully expect to play in a state championship game."

The first game of the Cliff Hawkins era is four months away but the veteran coach has already jumped feet-first into the job. This week's camp, for fifth through eighth graders, marked the first of several Hawkins has planned for youngsters in the Madison program.

Energetic and unfailingly optimistic, Hawkins was all over the floor instructing the campers on proper fundamentals. A vast majority of the camp was spent on ball-handling, something Hawkins believes in mightily.

"You can't work on ball-handling for five or 10 minutes a day and expect to get better," Hawkins told his group. "Shooting is important, and we're going to do a lot of that, but this is the most important thing you can do."

The small group of about 30 campers worked on cross-over dribbles, drills using two balls, and fast-breaks. He also schooled his players on the art of shooting off the dribble, making each curl around a chair before firing away.

The small turnout didn't bother Hawkins. He has been on the job less than a month and he knows that there wasn't much advance notice of the camp. Plus he admits that the camp being run at the Lide White Boys & Girls Club by College of Mount St. Joseph head coach Toby Carrigan probably impacted his numbers a bit.

"I've only been here a few weeks and I had no idea that coach Carrigan was having his camp the same week," Hawkins said. "I've already talked to coach Carrigan and we're going to make sure that we don't have it on the same week next year. In fact, I'm headed over there now to help out."

Hawkins, who has 453 wins in 34 years on the job, knows that reaching the younger classes is the key to building a successful program. To that end, he plans on having camps for kids off all ages throughout the year.

"We're going to have shooting drills for the younger kids and work our way up," Hawkins said. "The key is to give the younger kids exposure to the program and drum up interest."

Six of the current Madison Cub varsity players were on hand to help Hawkins with the camp and act as counselors. Every few minutes, the coach would stop the camp and let his student coaches go over the fine points of what they just learned.

"That's a big part of it right there. I couldn't have done this camp without them," Hawkins said. "It gives the younger guys a chance to meet the current players and for the current guys to know who's coming behind them."

Hawkins said more camps will be forthcoming and in the future and he expects attendance numbers to grow. Still, he was happy with the kids who showed up this week.

"It wasn't a great big group," he said, "but it was a nice start."