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Effingham girls basketball hosts shooting camp for youth with Indiana Fever guard Caitlin Clark part of the reason for increased numbers

Jun. 6—EFFINGHAM — Indiana Fever star guard Catlin Clark has been the talk of the town.

Be it Indianapolis, Iowa City — where she played collegiately — or right here in Effingham, what Clark has meant to the girls game has been nothing more than impactful.

"It's kind of the Steph Curry effect, I think," Effingham girls basketball assistant coach Aaron Witges said. "There are lots of parts to the game of basketball, but when you see someone like Caitlin Clark, that's kind of that icon that women's basketball has needed. I think the way kids are connected nowadays, they don't sit and have to watch a whole game, either; they can sit and watch the highlights and that's kind of how kids take in information."

The Effingham girls basketball team recently held a shooting camp at the high school.

The camp ran for three days. Head coach Jeff Schafer said he had around 90 kids attend.

"I've coached a girls sport for 30 years and to see how it's changed, how we've evolved from Day 1 to now from having 20-30 kids at camp to 90, that's pretty special," he said.

Clark's ascension has helped that.

"She's been amazing," Schafer said. "I think this is our biggest camp ever and I think a lot of it has to do with three factors: Catlin Clark, we started a fifth and sixth grade program last summer and we had a really good season. We had a lot of interest in our program last year. We had really good crowds, especially at the end and then the excitement that Catlin Clark brought in the NCAA. She's had a phenomenal impact on the game."

"I feel like, over the last couple of years, those numbers have grown. Certainly, the rise of the WNBA and players that the girls recognize and identify with, you see it with the numbers at our younger levels, fifth and sixth grade and starting that program," Witges added. "We had 27 seventh-graders here today."

Alivia Lauritzen is a soon-to-be sixth grader at Effingham Junior High School and attended the camp.

She said her favorite player was Clark.

"My favorite basketball player is Caitlin Clark. I like her because she has changed the outlook of girls sports and it's fun to watch her hit 3s," Lauritzen said. "She also shares the same number with my uncle, Greg, and me."

Schafer started the shooting camp several years ago.

He feels the most important aspect of basketball to teach when they're young is how to shoot correctly and the technique behind it.

"Learning over the years how to put the tape down, the spots, give them the proper footwork, the proper technique, drawing their hands on the basketball, trying to teach them to do it the right way and keep their interest for two hours is tough," Schafer said. "Biggest thing is we want to teach them how to shoot and have them have fun."

Alongside Schafer, and Witges, are several other instructors that are teaching, too.

Some are current players.

"Hearing what you preach to them and hearing them say the same things. I love when they start to explain the why," Schafer said. "Not just telling them what to do but explaining to them, 'We do it this way because.' That is the cool part."

Of those helping were soon-to-be seniors Bella Austin, Sidney Donaldson, Saige Althoff and Bria Beals and soon-to-be juniors Alyssa Martin and Averie Wolfe.

Contact EDN Sports Editor Alex Wallner at 618-510-9231 or alex.wallner@effinghamdailynews.com.