HUNTINGTON - Patrick Patterson was impressed with the quick guard driving the lane, missing a shot, fighting for the rebound and putting it back in for a basket.

The NBA standout and former Huntington High School and University of Kentucky star was doubly impressed that the player performing that feat was a girl.

Patterson is conducting his fourth basketball camp in as many years at HHS this week. More than 300 young players ages 7 to 16 participated Monday and will continue through Wednesday in the Lucas-Archer Gym. Close to one-third of the players participating were girls.

"I love seeing the girls not backing down," Patterson said. "They're going right at the guys and the guys are going right at each other."

Patterson, 30, is a 6-foot-9 forward and currently a free agent after being waived by the Oklahoma City Thunder last month. He said he is working to secure a contract with another team, but added that reports of him signing with the Los Angeles Clippers are premature.

Last season, the 11-year NBA veteran averaged 3.6 points and 2.3 rebounds per game.

This week, Patterson's focus will be less on himself and more on the kids. Those ages 7 through 11 play from 9 a.m. to noon, followed by ages 12 through 16 from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m.

"It's all about working on fundamentals such as ball handling, moves you would transfer over to your game," Patterson said of what he and his staff teaches. "A lot of one on one, two on two, three on three. We also have some fun competitions. My main thing is just to have fun at what you do. Learn the game of basketball and develop some skills, but have fun."

Patterson brought with him signed memorabilia from several NBA players. Competitions took place to see who would win a jersey, autographed photo, shoes, shirts and other such items. The girls, competing with the boys, fared well.

"I am very impressed," Patterson said of the talent in the camp. "I'm surprised this year, but it's a good thing, seeing all the girls who are here showing off their talents. They're starting to improve. I'm seeing it."

One of the female stars was Huntington Middle School seventh grader Ella Giles. She said she, too, noticed the increase in girls since previous camps.

"It's a little different because there's a lot more people, so they have to split up differently," Giles said. "Normally there's just like my basketball team here, but there's more this time. There are a lot more girls trying to get better."

Giles said she appreciated the emphasis on ball handling and shooting form, as well as how to work together as a team. Ceredo-Kenova Middle School seventh grade Dria Parker said she, too, liked those aspects of camp.

"It's really fun and you learn a lot," Parker said. "Dribbling, especially. I'm a pretty good shooter overall, but dribbling is what really helped me here."

Brody Buchanan, 13, from Fairland Middle School, has attended each year of the camp but for the first time was with the older group.

"It's a lot of the same things, but the kids are bigger," Buchanan said, with a laugh. "I'm having a lot of fun and I learn a lot. I'm improving my ball handling skills."

Not only was the camp free, each player was given a backpack and a t-shirt.

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