Sometimes an idea is too perfect.
A thought that seems like it should be obvious – sitting at the forefront of a person’s mind – can often prove elusive until someone else comes along and gives it a voice.
Deja Mann can attest to that. After a stint of playing professional basketball in Europe, the former Merced High star had returned home to get her knee scoped and decide what to do next. A chance encounter between her mom and a former high school rival pointed Mann in a new direction.
“My mom ran into Becky Morris, who used to play at Golden Valley,” Mann said. “She asked why I wasn’t doing any youth camps around here. It made perfect sense. I’m a former Division I college basketball player who played pro ball in Europe. There’s a lot that I can teach the local kids. It’s just not something that I’d ever thought of before.”
Another chance encounter helped get the ball rolling. Danny Crosby, the Los Banos High School girls basketball coach and Merced College women’s basketball assistant, was in the process of putting together a youth camp of his own in Los Banos. The pair combined their efforts and will host a youth camp at Los Banos High on Aug. 4.
Mann “told me what she was considering doing, but was unsure,” Crosby said. “I told her I was putting together a camp in Los Banos. If she wanted to help, we could start small. Then if she liked it, we could do a bigger one in Merced.
“I’m excited for the opportunity. I don’t know if a lot of people in the area know Deja from her high school days. But she’s one of the best women’s basketball players to ever come out of the area.”
Mann, who played four years at Arizona State before playing pro ball in the Czech Republic, won’t be the only local star on hand. Crosby has also solicited the help of former Tiger and San Francisco State forward Brianna Harden as well as former Los Banos boys basketball coach and Menlo star Mike Bonillas.
The camp is for boys and girls ages 7-13 and will focus on fundamentals, shooting, ball handling, defense, footwork and team concepts. Participants will get hands-on instruction from Mann, Harden, Bonillas and the LB girls coaching staff and players for $20. The first 30 to sign up will go home with a basketball.
This is a rare opportunity for the kids to meet and learn from local players that have been where they were and gone on to play basketball at the highest levels.
Danny Crosby, Los Banos girls basketball coach
“I’m hoping it’s a huge turnout,” Crosby said. “This is a rare opportunity for the kids to meet and learn from local players that have been where they were and gone on to play basketball at the highest levels. I’m hoping the kids come out of the camp with a good understanding of the game’s fundamentals and an idea of what it will take to be successful if they stick with it.
“If things go well, we’ll probably set up another camp for kids at the high school level.”
As for Mann, she acknowledged this could be the start of a new path.
“I’m not ready to give up on playing professionally, but I’m not just going to sit around waiting for a call, either,” Mann said. “I love working with kids, and this is a great opportunity to give back to a community that supported me.
“I don’t know if I’m ready to do it yet, but I definitely see coaching in my future. The camp will give me a little experience with that.”
To sign up
Registration for the Aug. 4 youth camp will be held at Los Banos High School from 6-7:30 p.m. on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday. For more info, contact Los Banos girls basketball coach Danny Crosby at (209) 769-3558 or email@example.com.