McMINNVILLE - While most people in Umatilla County are busy thinking about the Farm City Pro Rodeo or the Little League Softball World Series, there are a few who have their thoughts on basketball. That really shouldn't be too surprising when you consider that the people are Pendleton High School's Bob McMillan, Todd Zimmermann and Marissa Hammond.

McMillan coordinates the Northwest Basketball Camp all-star camp, which is running at Linfield College in McMinnville, while Zimmermann is one of the coaches. Hammond is one of 340 players who have come from as far away as Maine and Hawaii to work on their basketball skills, as well as skills that can help them away from the court.

"I think there are a lot of camps out there that do a good job of teaching quality basketball, and we do a good job of teaching fundamentals, but I think one of the things that sets us aside is what we do away from basketball," McMillan said. "We feel like we want to develop each kid to be a well-rounded person so we not only deal with the physical part of a person, we also deal with the mental part of a person and the spiritual part a little bit."

McMillan, the girls junior varsity basketball head coach and varsity assistant, has been involved with NBC since 1977 and has enjoyed every minute.

"Being a retired administrator it gives me contact with the kids, which I missed," he said. "Plus I just love basketball."

The all-star camp is different than the normal NBC camps, such as the annual team camp in La Grande, in that it's by invitation only. Players received invitations as a result of their play at earlier NBC camps or by earning league honors during the previous high school season.

"My coach helped me get here," Hammond said. "If you got first-team or second-team All-league you got invited."

Although still called Northwest Basketball Camp, NBC has expanded to host camps in North Carolina, Anchorage, Alaska, and California.

"This year we'll have a little over 11,000 kids at 16 sites," McMillan said. "We want to make sure those are all going well before we expand."

"It's getting a chance to use our game to help kids grow not only on the floor, but to grow in life, Zimmermann, PHS head girls coach said. "It's a unique atmosphere here. These are kids that are willing to take a chance and to truly follow a direction they believe in. To be part of that is an honor and I couldn't pass up the opportunity."

Zimmermann believes it's a great experience for the kids and one he was grateful Hammond had the opportunity to partake in.

"It's a great deal for our kids," he said. "It's a chance to play against high quality, high caliber athletes that are also high-quality, high caliber people.

"Marissa walked down here Sunday and didn't know a single person and now she's sitting at a table with eight or nine girls and has them all laughing and giggling. To give a kid the chance for that kind of exposure to other people and other cultures is great, not to mention it gives her a chance to play more ball and that's always a good thing."

For Hammond, the camp also gives her the chance to play against some of the top players in the country.

"Here we do a lot of individual things," she said. "I want to get to get some better post moves and all-around better ball handling."

Even if one of his prized juniors didn't learn a thing on the basketball court, which certainly wasn't the case, Zimmermann is still thrilled that she was able to attend.

"The message here is so positive and the kids leave here feeling good, not only about basketball, but that they can go out there and make the right choice and do the right things with their lives," he said. "It's just a great experience for them."

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