ANNA — Lady Coyotes head coach Albert Cager was more than pleased by the turnout on Monday, June 26, for his first basketball camp at Anna’s helm.


“I was a little overwhelmed,” he said. “I wasn’t expecting that many kids. When they came in and I saw all those smiles on their faces, it was truly a blessing. I’ve been working my whole life to get to this moment. Now that I’m here, everything that happens is just a blessing and I’m thankful for it.”


Kindergarten-through-fourth-grade sessions ran in the morning, with fifth-through-ninth grade instruction in the afternoon.


“It went really well,” Cager said of Day 1 of the four-day camp held at Anna High School. “The kids had a lot of fun. They worked hard. I told them the No. 1 rule was: In my camp, you must have fun. … Everything is headed truly in the right direction. You look at kids like Reagan Wright. She’ll be a fourth grader, but she has a bright future. She’s working on her lay-ups. She participated in the morning camp and the afternoon camp because she just wants to be in the gym. When you see kids like that who really want to be in the gym, the future is very bright.”


Campers Jaycee Matthews, 15, and Madison Williams, 14, will be Anna freshmen this year and hope to play basketball. Matthews said on Wednesday that she appreciated the patience demonstrated by the coaches.


“They understand when we have complications,” Matthews said. “When we don’t understand a play they walk us through it and they don’t give us any attitude or anything about it.”


Williams said she enjoyed “being able to learn the new skills that we weren’t really taught before and getting introduced to all the new things that we weren’t introduced to before. The coaches,” she added, “they’re really nice and it’s easy to work with them.”


Assisting at camp were new Lady Coyotes assistant coach Tiffany Kelly and Reggie Johnson, with whom Cager worked when he coached at Faith Family Academy. Cager said some of his older campers also come to early sessions to work with the younger girls.


“We’re all about family,” he said. “We’re all about community, putting this thing together.”


Johnson, Cager added, also conducted team camps during the week for Anna varsity, JV and advanced middle-school players.


Kelly comes to Anna from Denison High School, replacing Alann Polk who had recently accepted the position but took a job at Denton Braswell High instead.


“To me, it was nothing but God,” Kelly said of her opportunity at Anna.


At Denison, her alma mater, Kelly was an assistant volleyball and soccer coach and taught Intervention and P.E classes. Basketball, though, was her main focus throughout college. After a triple-sport high school career — basketball, volleyball and track – Kelly graduated from Denison in 1995 and signed to play basketball at Baylor University.


“Unfortunately,” she said, “an injury kind of took me away and I transferred to Southeastern (Oklahoma State University) and finished up there.”


Kelly said she wasn’t even thinking of moving when she learned of an open teaching position at Anna. Once she accepted it and was on campus, she learned of the varsity basketball vacancy. After prayerful consideration, she said, she accepted the position.


“It’s been so much fun,” Kelly said of basketball camp. “I’ve been out of basketball for so long. … When I got here it just felt like home. I can touch a ball again. I get to actually teach and be involved with basketball again. It just feels right. … I call (the campers) my kids because I don’t have any kids. I was, like, ‘You are now my adopted kids.”