Law spends summer coaching young athletes

Coach Jolette Law talks with campers at Ubben Basketball Facility on Thursday. Susan Kantor

Coach Jolette Law talks with campers at Ubben Basketball Facility on Thursday. Susan Kantor

By Meghan Montemurro

Like most other collegiate head coaches, Jolette Law has spent her summer recruiting.

During her off days, however, her focus shifts to the long-term future: kids.

Law’s basketball camps offer girls from kindergarten through high school an opportunity to work with the Illinois staff and improve their basketball skills at the Ubben Basketball Complex. Seven camps are offered this summer and the staff is in the midst of running session two from 8 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. each day.

“It gives me the opportunity to work hands on with young people, teach them the fundamentals of the game, being able to inspire and motivate them and to be a role model,” Law said. “Someone was (a role model) for me, and this is my way of giving back.”

Law said she has seen multiple campers participate in more than one camp.

“The response has been good,” Law said of the camps. “The kids have been coming in here and working hard. I want to make sure we build good relationships in hopes that further down the line, these kids can say I made a difference in their life.”

For the campers, it offers an up close look at both the University and the basketball program. McKenzie Downey, 12, is the cousin of assistant coach Patrick Klein. Downey, who lives in Aurora, Ind., attended the Ohio State University’s women’s basketball camps when Klein was an assistant in Columbus. She said Law and the rest of her staff are present at the camps, which wasn’t the case at Ohio State.

“(Law’s) here every day and doing the drills with us,” Downey said. “She’s really energetic and comes up and talks to us.”

Downey and fellow camper Amy Heiland, 13, said the camp has motivated them to work on their respective games and hopefully one day return to campus as a student. Heiland said she has the learned a lot on how to play defense – a staple of Law’s coaching style.

“I’ve learned that you need to stay low on defense and that games like knockout are to help make you better,” the East Moline, Ill., native said.

When the camp ends Friday, Law will prepare to hit the road and continue to recruit. One of the knocks on the women’s basketball program has been allowing top talent to leave the state.

“Right now, our run to the Big Ten Championship game and the Big Ten Network has really opened a lot of doors for us,” Law said. “My main focus again, I keep saying, I’m just trying to keep Illinois kids here in state and get them excited about this great University. I just think that kids in this state should want to come here at the University of Illinois.”

With her first season as a head coach behind her, Law is prepared to take the Illini and the program to new heights. That’s not to say Illinois’ last second loss to Purdue in the Big Ten Championship was easy to move past.

“I’m still not over it,” Law said of the loss that dashed the team’s NCAA Tournament hopes.

While a loss is a loss, especially one that comes in a heartbreaking fashion, Law is still drawing positives from the Big Ten title game.

“We’re going to build on that game, and it’s going to be our motivation for our upcoming season,” Law said of the Purdue loss. “We’re destined to get to the NCAAs, and we’re going to do it the right way.”