Pacers Athletic Center Offers Youth Sports Camps & Clinics
Writer / Christy Heitger-Ewing
Photographer / Amy Payne
The Pacers Athletic Center, formerly Jonathan Byrd’s Fieldhouse, is an 88,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art indoor athletic facility that offers “a little bit of everything,” according to Evan Suttner, President of the facility.
“We’re not just here for league players,” Suttner says. “We want to serve every kind of player.”
And it starts young. The Smaller Baller league is designed to get four to 7-year-olds used to dribbling and being on the court. Then there are youth, teen and adult leagues.
“Whatever your ability, we’ve got something for you,” promises Suttner, a native of Carmel and a diehard Pacers fan since first grade. An IU graduate, he worked for five seasons as a manager with the Indiana women’s basketball team.
“I wanted to get into coaching so they gave me opportunities to be involved in every aspect of coaching,” he says.
Ultimately, Suttner moved back to Carmel with his wife Lauren and started a training business on the south side. Then he met Brandon Lafferman, who at the time was running Indiana Primetime Sports. Within a few months, Suttner and Lafferman merged what they were doing, then were hired in 2016 by the Pacers organization — Lafferman as CEO of the Pacers Athletic Center and Suttner as President.
Primetime, a professionally coached group of boys and girls teams that play in the Indy Youth Basketball League (IYBL), is their primary in-house team program for 2nd to 8th graders. The IYBL, the largest in the state, is divided into multiple divisions, matching players skill-wise to ensure competitive games and avoid blowouts.
In the fall and winter, youth league games are on Saturdays and Sundays. They shift the games to Sunday and Monday evenings during the spring and summer, however, so that kids can also be involved in other sports.
“This schedule allows players to keep a ball in their hands and continue to develop their skills throughout the year,” Suttner says.
The Grand Park Select teams (open to all levels) and the Grand Park Premier teams (for experienced athletes in grades 5-11 who want to play in tournament-based AAU travel teams) are options.
No teams use parent coaches.
“It’s a fair, balanced way of looking at where kids should play on the floor so it’s not the coach’s son who’s always bringing the ball up the court,” Suttner says. “Our coaches don’t teach a lot of set plays but more how to play the game, since that’s the philosophy we built the program on.”
The Pacers Athletic Center hosts a variety of camps, but the three they run in-house include the all-ages Primetime Skills and Drills Camp, The All Sports Camp, and the Primetime Basketball Elite Camp (each are from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. weekdays). The Primetime Camp focuses on skill development. Mornings are spent doing ball handling, passing and shooting, while afternoons are devoted to competitive play.
“We keep a running tally in how our teams are doing in various events to make it fun and competitive,” Suttner says.
The All Sports Camp introduces campers to basketball, kickball, football, soccer and ultimate frisbee. Both the Primetime and All Sports Camps are offered multiple times throughout June and July.
The Primetime Basketball Elite Camp is for A- and B-level players. Though it also focuses on skill development, this camp (run only once in July) teaches students about specific aspects of play they will use in games.
“We do skill work in the morning, a leadership lecture at lunch, then show them game film so they can see what we taught them in the morning applied in a game,” Suttner says. “That way it starts to click. The afternoon is taking the things they learned in the morning and applying it in a game-like setting.”
The spring and summer training clinics are one-hour sessions that focus on a variety of things. They have an all-around skills group where players work on a little bit of everything. In addition, they offer a guards training group to teach players how to attack the basket and a shooting group to work on proper form.
The Jr. NBA named the Pacers Athletic Center part of its Flagship Network, a select group of 15 of the best in-class youth basketball programs that share the Jr. NBA’s vision for how the game should be taught and played.
“We want to give kids a positive experience so that they can grow their love for the game,” says Suttner, noting that they help youth develop their skills both on and off the court by teaching them to be both a good player and a good teammate. “These kids will not all play in college or the NBA, but they could have a career that revolves around basketball if that’s what they love. We give them an opportunity to be around the game as often as they want to be.”
The Pacers Athletic Center was selected to host the Jr. NBA World Championship for the top 14 and under teams from around the world (tourney will feature boys and girls divisions). The Midwest Regional will be held in June. Those winners will then play in Orlando in a global tournament in August.
“We’re excited to be a part of this first-ever global event,” Suttner says.
Another fun event in late April is the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League (EYBL), which features many of the top 100 high school players in the country.
“Top college coaches like Archie Miller, Mike Krzyzewski and Roy Williams will be here over that weekend recruiting players,” Suttner says.
If you love the game of basketball, check out the Pacers Athletic Center, located at 200 E. 186th Street, Suite A in Westfield. For more info or to register for a camp, call 317-763-1500 or visit pacersac.com/camps/.