MELISSA – It makes good sense: Want to be the best basketball point guard you can be? Go to Point Guard College. Yes, there is such a thing, and Melissa Cardinals Junior Castleberry, 16, and Ezra Monroe, 15, did just that, July 6-10, at Texas Woman’s University in Denton. But this demanding five-day training course involved way more than just basketball drills and schemes.

“It was to make you a better overall person,” Castleberry said. “Not just a better basketball player.”

Castleberry is the son of Kenneth and Lisa Castleberry. Monroe’s parents are Ezra and Junie Monroe. At the Monroes’ home on Tuesday, July 11, Monroe and Castleberry discussed their experience.

“It was good,” Castleberry said. “At times it was hard because we spent so much time in the gym and in the classroom.”

Monroe added that the camp stressed the significance of creating a “championship environment,” with the goal of producing “sheep dogs” — or leaders.

Neither of them had been to a PCG event before or knew quite what to expect. While there, other than sleeping and eating, Castleberry and Monroe did little else besides attend classes, study, drill and compete, often until past 10 p.m. A great deal of time was devoted to learning to be a leader, on and off the court.

Founded by the late Dick DeVenzio, Point Guard Basketball is for high school- and college-age male and female athletes and its camps are held at various times across the country. While many point guards attend these camps, other players are welcome as well. Since its inception 25 years ago, the program has drawn praise from the likes of late UCLA coaching legend John Wooden, three-time NBA All-Star Doug Collins and current Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle. DeVenzio was a 1970s All-American point guard at Duke who went on to author five highly-regarded instructional books on basketball. He passed away in 2001 at the age of 52, but his legacy remains strong.

About 180 athletes took part in the TWU camp. Advertised as “40 hours of intense hands-on instruction designed to help you grow as player, a leader and a person,” the camp offers a double-your-money-back guarantee. The course is not inexpensive — $895 per athlete — but that price includes meals and campus-dorm lodging. Junie Monroe sounded more than pleased with the value.

“I liked it because it was life lessons,” she said. “It was not so much just leading your team on the court. It was life lessons that will fit in anybody’s life – just values and morals. It was pretty awesome. … It was amazing hearing Ezra’s stories each night before ‘lights off’ and even just talking with Junior’s parents. They got a lot out of it.”

Gym sessions were held in TWU’s Kitty Magee Arena, with film sessions and classroom periods conducted nearby each day. A test on classroom material came at course’s end. Castleberry and Monroe both took copious class notes. Monroe read off some of his favorite “life lessons” that were discussed: “Special athletes never miss an opportunity to learn;” “If you want to succeed as badly as you want to breathe, then you’ll be successful;” and “A good leader can get their teammates to believe in him, but a great leader can get them to believe in themselves.”

Camp directors were Dave Daniels and Matt Sayman. Sayman played four years at Baylor, from 2000-2004, then logged one year of pro ball in Iceland. He is currently head coach at Grapevine Faith High School. Prior to Baylor, Sayman was a two-time MVP for The Colony High School and District 5-5A’s MVP his senior year. A Second-Team All-State pick in 2000, Sayman was rated Texas’ ninth-ranked college recruit by Texas Hoops.

Daniels was an All-Conference player at Division II Colorado Christian University and the league’s 1993 MVP. After college, he played on two Continental Basketball League teams and the Denver Nuggets’ summer league squad before joining Christian-based Athletes in Action for 10 years. At the 2000 Olympics Games in Sydney, Daniels was Canada’s back-up point guard behind NBA All Star Steve Nash. Daniels went on to coach at his alma mater, CCU, and at Northwest Nazarene University.

“‘Most kids can play really good,” Monroe recalled from Daniels, “but there are not a lot of good players that are leaders too.’ He wanted us to be leaders.”

The long days began with breakfast at 7:30 a.m. following by two hours of class, then gym work. Court-time included detailed instruction in reading man-to-man and zone defenses, as well as mental-toughness training.

“When Junior and Ezra told me they were going to go to PGC, I was pumped,” Melissa Cardinals head basketball coach Eric Benton said. “It’s got a great reputation, not just for the skill work, but also for the teaching and classroom sessions they provide there. I have no doubt that both those guys are going to benefit greatly from going.”

Castleberry said one of biggest things he learned during gym time was the importance of communication.

“Last year I did not talk at all,” he said. “But I think this year, I’m going to talk a lot more and get my team to talk.”

Monroe played JV ball last year and hopes to move to varsity this season.

“When I played on JV the team communication wasn’t really there,” he said. “It was kind of like, everybody for himself.”

He said he’d like to see “everybody together, playing as one.”

The toughest part of the program?

“Being in class for two hours and then applying what you learned in class on the court,” Monroe said. “It wasn’t really hard, but it was challenging to do all the stuff that they said, to get good reps on it.”

Castleberry echoed that, adding, “Sometimes the days got a little bit tedious, but you had to get through it.”

Junie Monroe said parents got to observe one classroom session — which she called “phenomenal” — and an extended gym session. She said they plan to send Monroe to Point Guard Basketball’s next step, “Grad School,” in the coming year.

Monroe and Castleberry said they both enjoyed the unique, protracted games in the gym — contests developed by DeVenzio to highlight certain aspects of basketball - that often went on for hours.

Castleberry and Monroe both said they now feel better equipped to handle anything a district game might throw at them. And they each recommend PGC to other motivated high school hoopsters.

“They’d have to come mentally and physically prepared for it,” Monroe noted. “There were some kids there, when we played on the last day, they just broke down.”