Darton hoops coach Henry readies for youth camp at DWS

Photo by John Millikan

Photo by John Millikan

ALBANY -- Lea Henry knows exactly where her heart is.

The Damascus native, esteemed basketball coach and Olympic gold medal winner travels around the country teaching children lessons in athletics and life, leaving her mark on both basketball courts and the future of youth.

But the freshly-named Darton College women's basketball coach always sets aside one week to come back home, she said during a phone interview earlier this week.

"The Deerfield camp has always been a big part of what we do. It kind of has its own feel to it," she said. "It's home. It's always felt nice to be there."

Henry will host her 26th annual Camp of Champs at Deerfield-Windsor July 11-14 -- a program that helps players of all abilities improve on the fundamentals of the game.

Henry, who coached at Georgia State for 16 years before resigning last season to help her husband Greg Manning full time with Camp of Champs, Inc., said fundamentals of all aspects of the game will be covered at the four-day camp.

"We are trying to teach the fundamentals of the game," she said. "We are actually trying to make sure the campers have fun and realize that basketball is a fun game to play. We make it a great experience for them."

However, Henry's teaching goes deeper than fundamentals, explained Dougherty girls' basketball coach Charlene Jackson, who is one of the several local coaches who will be assisting Henry throughout the camp.

"She stresses character building throughout the entire time of the camp," Jackson said. "They have fun games that they do with the kids, and they teach the kids about being responsible and following rules and being respectful and showing gratitude. They always remind them to appreciate that somebody allowed them to come to camp."

Like several other camp instructors, such as Lee County boys' and girls' basketball coaches Tim and Fran McPherson, Jackson has been annually helping Henry for more than a decade.

"I keep coming back because we have kids that come to camp to learn," said Jackson, who often teaches campers post moves. "It's a well-run camp, and (Henry) is great to work with. It is an organized camp, and we teach a lot of basketball."

Henry said that the event -- which is for girls and boys ages 7-18 -- has annually drawn between 90 and 120 campers, who all receive a camp T-shirt and the chance to win numerous awards and giveaways.

The campers also get a chance to learn the game from Henry, who has a list of accomplishments as both a player and coach that go on and on. After attending high school at Southwest Georgia Academy, she went from being a four-year starter for the University of Tennessee and member of the gold medal women's basketball team in the 1984 Olympics to coaching women's basketball teams at Florida, Mercer and Georgia State.

Henry's latest stop on her basketball journey -- the Darton coaching position, which she accepted in early May -- has already proven to be fruitful. Since agreeing to coach the Lady Cavaliers, Henry has signed four new players -- Dodge County's Michelle Mitchell, Northside Warner Robins' Chan Fann, Brookwood's Lauren Johnson and Tattnall Square's Faren Harris.

While Henry has been actively recruiting for a Lady Cavs program that finished last season 18-14, she said she hasn't had a chance to meet the entire team.

"I have coached basketball for so long it never leaves your thought process. It's something I'm preparing for and working on even if I'm not sitting at a desk," Henry said. "The players I have talked to seem very excited. They seem like they are ready to go."