Two Southwestern Assemblies of God University men’s basketball players had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to coach basketball camps in rural areas across Western Alaska. Seniors Rishaad Alexander and Jason Gentry worked for NBC Camps while traveling to different villages teaching fundamentals to local village children.
The young men had the opportunity to work with Southeastern University’s (Florida) head basketball coach RJ Barsh. SAGU’s head basketball coach Donnie Bostwick made the introduction.
Alexander was thrilled for the opportunity, he said.
“I never would have thought that God would send me to Alaska to do something that I love to do,” Alexander said. “I must say it was quite a journey to get there, having to catch small planes and ferries, but with my trust in God’s guidance and His protection I was able to have a safe trip.”
Gentry was the first to arrive in Alaska. Making it to the primitive Hooper Bay, and then keeping up with the basketball schedule, wasn’t for the faint of heart. He flew into Anchorage before hopping onto a small eight-seater plane, landing in Hooper Bay at 6 p.m. and starting camp at 7 p.m.
Gentry was impressed with how basketball-crazy the children in Alaska were, he said.
“Coach Barsh set the tone early and it didn’t take long for me or the village kids to realize RJ was the real deal,” Gentry said. “At Hooper Bay we had camp for four days. We started at 9 a.m. and went until 9 p.m. The village kids live for basketball. That’s all they do there.”
According to Gentry, coaching basketball was enjoyable but it wasn’t the best part, he said.
“At the end of the Hooper Bay camp we ended up having 32 salvations,” Gentru said. “That was the best experience of the camp.”
After four days in Hooper Bay, Gentry flew inland to St. Mary’s, where Alexander met up for the next camp. Alexander appreciated the stark difference of life in Alaska, he said.
“The village life in St. Mary’s, Alaska is a lot different from the urban life in Chicago, but overall, it is just as beautiful in its own way. Majority of the people rode four-wheelers to get around the village,” Alexander said. “There is 23 hours of daylight in St. Mary’s, so it was kind of hard to get sleep as the sun would shine through our blinds and curtains.”
Alexander and Gentry also had the chance to experience life like a local. They ate fresh King Salmon and moose pepper sticks as well as fished in the Andreafsky River. Alexander was the only one to catch a fish, which was a first for him. Both young commented on how this trip was an opportunity that won’t easily come around again.
Hooper Bay is over 500 miles west of Anchorage, Alaska. There is no way to drive to Hooper Bay from Anchorage and no way to commute by car from Hooper Bay to St. Mary’s.
Bostwick will be offering an NBC Camp at SAGU on Monday and Thursday. Ages 8-18 are welcome.