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“JR” Camel brings his game to Arlee Warriors as head coach

The Arlee Warriors set off a new season with a new coach. With a 4-2 record so far, the group has been working on coming together as a team. (Alyssa Nenemay photo) The Arlee Warriors set off a new season with a new coach. With a 4-2 record so far, the group has been working on coming together as a team. (Alyssa Nenemay photo)

ARLEE — His arms were crossed and his eyes were focused as the young men stood guard throughout the court. “Tighten up, tighten up,” he said when their play grew scattered. Even though it was practice, Henry “JR” Camel says intensity is necessary: “Working hard on conditioning makes the win easier.”

Strong conditioning is one of many techniques Camel has been implementing in his new role as the head basketball coach for the Arlee Warriors. With years of experience in the game, both as a player and an assistant coach, Camel is eager for the season.

“This is my first season coaching high school basketball and I’m excited. I’ve been watching a lot of these kids play in 3-on-3’s over the summer so I knew what they were capable of. Arlee has a good group of kids,” he said.

Although it is his first season coaching high school, Camel has had eight years of experience an assistant coach for the Salish Kootenai College men’s team. Camel’s older brother Zack is the head coach, and has offered an abundance of advice.

“My brother taught me that coaching is seeing what you can get out of the players you are given. If you can get a lot out of guys who aren’t very skilled, you’ve done your job,” said Camel.

JR Camel watches the team practice their layups. “This is my first season coaching high school basketball and I’m excited,” he said. (Alyssa Nenemay photo) JR Camel watches the team practice their layups. “This is my first season coaching high school basketball and I’m excited,” he said. (Alyssa Nenemay photo)

Camel’s history with the sport began when he moved to the Flathead Reservation in sixth grade from Idaho. He trained with his family’s boxing team “Desert Horse” before the move but there was a lack of opportunities for the sport in the area; Camel began playing basketball as an alternative.

“I didn’t even like basketball but we had to pick up a sport,” he recalled. “Everyone around here was into basketball so I decided to check it out.”

Checking out the game paid off as Camel signed an intent form to play basketball for the University of Montana. As a junior, he transferred from St. Ignatius to Hellgate High School in Missoula–living with his older brother Zack.

Throughout his time playing for Hellgate, the team was undefeated 23-0 and they won state championship. Camel was deemed the Gatorade Montana Player of the year in 1993 and was awarded a scholarship to play for the University of Montana Grizzlies as a Division One college prospect.

Camel took full advantaged of the opportunities that presented itself during his two seasons playing for the University and left a legacy. The baller held a record for the most steals at 215. Camel also met his wife, fellow Division One Griz basketball alum Malia Kipp-Camel, while attending school. From the Blackfeet tribe, she was a first class inductee in the Indian Hall of Fame.

Zanen Pitts (Right) was appointed assistant coach for the Warriors. Pitts follows his father Terry’s footsteps-who served as Arlee’s head coach in the past. (Alyssa Nenemay photo) Zanen Pitts (Right) was appointed assistant coach for the Warriors. Pitts follows his father Terry’s footsteps-who served as Arlee’s head coach in the past. (Alyssa Nenemay photo)

Aside from coaching and assistant coaching, Camel plays for his family’s basketball team Desert Horse. The crew plays in tournaments and leagues throughout the area. He and his wife have three daughters together, whom he hopes will pick up the game. To stay in shape, Camel has been training with both the Warriors and when he’s feeling up to it, with the SKC team.

“Just to teach, that’s big for me right now,” he said. “I’m going to work with the opportunity to teach younger generations what I’ve learned. I get more excitement coaching a win then even getting wins-I can tell I’m getting older.”

Camel would like to thank his brother Zack for the support and leadership he has shown throughout the years and would also like to recognize his brother Bill’s work helping with the fitness and conditioning of the SKC team. He would also like to offer advice to younger ballers coming up.

“Keep your confidence. It’s hard to play when they’re telling you don’t do this or that. Don’t get down on yourself. Believe in yourself. As a coach I believe in my player to make the shot. I don’t hope. He needs me to believe so he can believe,” he said.

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