BLOOMINGTON, Ind. --- When former Indiana basketball player Jordan Hulls started his basketball camp in the summer of 2014, his father J.C. said he had no idea what it would evolve into.
Two years later, Jordan is standing before and giving instruction to nearly 40 kids for the afternoon session of the JH1 Skills Academy, his annual basketball camp based in Bloomington, Indiana.
“I tell them, I can’t make them Steph Curry in three days,” Jordan said. “So everything I teach them, I make it pretty unique.”
Though he has played professional basketball overseas for the last three years, Jordan has been able to return to Bloomington and take time out of his busy summer schedule to put on the camp in his hometown.
Each academy player goes through six different stations, with each station focusing on the fundamentals of the game. The emphasis on fundamentals each day and the few, if any, games make the camp unique, Hulls said. The stations are spread out over three courts at Bloomington High School South, where Hulls played his high school basketball.
Two coaches, ranging from Jordan’s family to his teammates from Belgium and Indiana, provide instruction at each station to groups of 5-7 players.
One of those coaches is Stanton Kidd, a Limburg United (Belgium) teammate of Jordan’s.
Jordan told Kidd about the academy back in January and kept the conversation going through Limburg United’s playoff run in May. Once Jordan had the dates of the academy figured out, his father helped Kidd, a Baltimore, Maryland native, book a flight to Indiana to come down and help Jordan out.
“This is awesome, man,” Kidd said. “This is really good for the kids to learn skill development, definitely from a good player like Jordan and the rest of the staff that we have. With me being a professional for my first year, I can share what I learned on the way up to my professional career. From the smaller group of kids earlier, now to the kids going to play in high school and getting ready for college, we can share that information with them.”
The camp has evolved so much that it now sells apparel branded by the academy’s namesake. Jordan’s mother, Joni, did the graphic design work for the t-shirts each camper receives as well as the logos and other material displayed on the academy’s website.
J.C., owner of Indiana Elite Training and National Tourney Director for adidas 3-stripe girls basketball events, assists with the shooting drills along with Jordan’s sister, Kaila, who played for the Indiana women’s basketball team.
Kaila’s college career was tragically cut short by two ACL injuries – one at Bowling Green State University, the other at Indiana – but being involved with her older brother’s camp has allowed her to reconnect with the game she loves.
“Obviously I had a pretty rough career in college with my two ACLs, and I kind of grew apart from the game a little bit,” Kaila said. “But coming back to this has really sparked that fire. I realized, ‘Oh yeah, this has been my passion my whole life,’ so just being out there and doing the sport that I love while helping young children is really satisfying.”
Kaila captures the essence of why the family works together with the skills academy. J.C. said their priority is to help the kids, not see how much money they can make at the academy that year.
In addition to focusing on the kids, the success of the camp can also be tied back to a conversation J.C. had when Jordan first thought about starting it.
“The key is, I want you involved in the camp,” J.C. said, recalling the conversation. “It’s no good if you’re not involved, for you to show up and take some pictures and sign some autographs. The kids want to see you, and he’s great at that."
“They used to be the ones sitting there in camps,” Joni added, referring to Jordan and Kaila. “I think Jordan gives people hope that, if he can do it, I can do it, type of mentality… I’m small, but I can still work hard."
The Hulls family solicits feedback from campers and their parents each year to figure out what they can do to improve the experience. This year, they added the official DJ of IU Athletics, DJ Unique, who mixes music throughout the sessions to keep the kids energized.
As the camp wraps up, Jordan asks the campers what they learned today. They take turns talking about the techniques they were taught at various stations. Then, after one serious and one silly camp photo, Jordan huddles all the coaches and players near midcourt, breaking down the huddle on three by yelling, “Dream big, work hard!”
“I think these kids can really relate to me,” Jordan said. “When I was growing up, I wasn’t the biggest, fastest, strongest – same story I tell everybody, forever, it seems like, but it’s true. If I can relate that to the kids and ignite some passion into them, if I can teach them the skills to work hard at whatever they do, I think that’s pretty rewarding for me.”