YOUTH BASKETBALL: Little town of Camptonville boasts big talent on court (VIDEO)
With 2 seconds remaining in the game, eighth-grader Kyle Ledson stepped to the free throw line with his team up by one point.
With the outcome hanging in the balance, Ledson calmly sank both free throws to ice the game and give the Camptonville Cougars eighth grade basketball team a 47-44 regular season victory over Mount Saint Mary’s in the Nevada County Small Schools basketball league.
“I feel like this is a great team,” Ledson said with a wide smile after the game. “We’ve all been working really hard and we’re all together all the time. We grew up together, we know each other well.”
Ledson has all the talent and poise needed to be a team leader, which goes nicely with his overwhelming height advantage. Ledson is head and shoulders taller than every other kid on the court, but he’s not awkward like most would expect a 6-foot, 2-inch, 13-year-old with size 13 shoes to be.
He glides gracefully up and down the floor, weaving in and out of defenders on his way to the hoop. He handles the ball almost as well as he rebounds — and best of all, he’s always looking to get his teammates involved.
Ledson is no doubt a star on the rise and he, along with the pack of Cougars from Camptonville Elementary School, are letting their Nevada County neighbors to the south know they are a force to be reckoned with.
Ledson scored 32 points, grabbed 23 rebounds and blocked five shots in Wednesday’s victory. But for Ledson winning is just one part of what he hopes to achieve in his final season with the Cougars.
“I hope we can get as many wins as we can and get these guys on the road for next year,” he said.
Ledson hopes to set a foundation for the future of the Camptonville Elementary basketball program that will make winning a common occurrence for years to come.
The Camptonville Cougars play in the boys eighth-grade division. But there are only two eighth graders on the team. The Cougars are a mix of nine boys and girls ranging from fifth through eighth grades.
With a small pool of players to choose from (there are about 70 total students at Camptonville Elementary, kindergarten through eighth grade), the Cougars take what they can get, said coach Jeff Ledson, Kyle’s father.
What they’ve got is a scrappy bunch of players with a ton of heart and a strong connection to each other.
“Most of us sit by each other at lunch. We’re all really close. We are always practicing at recess, so we always got that teamwork,” said sixth-grader Elliott Tinnel, who played every minute of the game against Mount Saint Mary’s.
“Elliot is amazing as a sixth grader,” Jeff Ledson said. “He started all our games last year as a fifth grader.”
Other than Kyle Ledson, the starting five includes four sixth graders in Cassius Courtney, Ryder Querequincia, Julian Spackman and Tinnel. The Cougar reserves include Cody Nettles (fifth grade), Ava Spackman (fifth grade), Wyatt Tinnel (fifth grade), and Mikynna Aquirre (eighth grade).
“Its a challenge,” said Jeff Ledson. “We deal with such a range of talent. Some kids don’t even understand the basic concepts of basketball … We’re grooming a lot of young players, so look out in a couple years when all these sixth graders come up.”
That’s the future. In the present, Kyle Ledson is a young man among boys.
“It all comes down to how tall I am,” Kyle said. “I wasn’t the most coordinated person when I started, but (basketball) has become a sport I love to play. A lot of it is just working really hard and improving.”
Kyle and his father, Jeff, who is 6 feet, 8 inches tall, agree that it took a while for Kyle’s coordination to catch up to his stature.
“That has come in the last year or so,” said Jeff. “We almost gave up on basketball years ago, because he grew but just couldn’t catch up to his legs.”
His legs have caught up. Kyle is averaging 23 points per game, 17 rebounds, four blocks and three assists — and his field goal percentage is hovering above 70 percent.
“He completes (the team),” said Elliott Tinnel. “He brings it all together, and keeps everything under control.”
Ledson’s talents are not confined to the court though, as he has many skills in many different fields. In addition to being an outstanding student who is regularly on the Principal’s List, Kyle is highly skilled on the Mandolin.
“When I was three I started playing an instrument and just played and played,” Kyle said. “Now, I guess I’m going to be recording a CD soon.”
Kyle is set to record his first bluegrass album in May with the band Hot Buttered Rum backing him.
“We live off the grid,” Jeff said. “We don’t have television or anything like that, so all his voided time is spent playing basketball and playing music; and it really shows.”
For Kyle, who has garnered the nickname “Giraffe” from his teammates, he hopes to help his team keep winning this season and down the road play basketball in high school.
For the Cougars, who are now 2-3 this season — with two of those losses coming by a combined five points — the future is bright, as they hope to keep making a name for Camptonville on the basketball court, because as Kyle puts it, “It’s been a long time coming.”
To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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