The word Dixie has all kinds of connotations these days and not all of them are good.
Say the word and the image of a Confederate flag usually comes to mind along with a vision of a plantation home from the 1800s.
There’s another “Dixie” that has a entirely different meaning for Baton Rouge basketball coaches and players. The 50th Dixie Basketball Camp concludes this week with a second week-long session at Southwest Mississippi Community College in Summit, Mississippi, nestled between Hammond and Jackson, Mississippi.
It’s orchestrated by the family of Birmingham Southern Athletic Director Joe Dean Jr., the son of the late Joe Dean Sr., the former LSU basketball player and athletic director.
The camp was born in Baton Rouge in the 1960s and moved to Summit in 1974, the year then-LSU coach Dale Brown starting hosting camps and has stayed ever since, always stressing work ethic and fundamentals. It is part basketball camp, part old-school summer camp. Players who don’t complete their clean-up chores are asked to “perform” for other campers as entertainment.
“This isn’t like a showcase camp,” Episcopal coach Chris Beckman said. “You have very good players there. But it’s the kind of camp you can learn from, whether you’re a great player or not. I went to it six times as a player and now I’ve worked it for more than 10 years.”
Madison Prep assistant coach James Ross and Beckman were among the coaches who worked the first session last week. Catholic High coach Mark Cascio is set to be an instructor this week.
“My dad was always big on teaching lessons through this camp,” Joe Dean Jr. said. “I can remember him saying ‘You won’t all be great basketball players, but you can take what we show you and become a better young man.’ He believed the hard work and work ethic were things you could use in any career.”
Not convinced that a camp like this is relevant to Baton Rouge or any athletes today? Guess again. Dean, also a commentator for the SEC Network, was curious himself so he crunched the numbers.
The camp hosts about 500 players — 250 each week. Dean found that 70 percent of the campers, who range from fifth-graders to seniors-to-be, come from Louisiana. Of that group, about 50 percent come from the Baton Rouge area.
Dean’s son, Scott, is one of the family members who now works with the camp.
“I hope it keeps going for another 50 years,” Dean said.
It’s settled … for now
Kudos to the LHSAA and the Louisiana High School Officials Association for coming up with compromises that guarantee the prep football and volleyball seasons will begin on time.
The four-year agreement, approved by the LHSAA’s executive committee last week, still goes before the LHSAA’s member principals for a final vote in January. So there is still work to be done.
Though the deal indicates that things should be locked down for the next four years, it offers another cautionary tale. Past pay-raise promises for officials, including a scale for raises, fell by the wayside.
I hope this time is different for both sides. Conflicts with officials over pay raises is just one negative cycle the LHSAA needs to break.
Follow Robin Fambrough on Twitter: @FambroughAdv