Kids learn, have fun at Norris Cole Basketball Camp at ThunderPlex

07/17/2014 12:00 AM

07/18/2014 4:07 PM

About 100 local boys and girls, age 4-17, were fortunate to enhance their basketball skills under the guidance of Miami Heat point guard Norris Cole and ThunderPlex coaches during the Norris Cole Basketball Camp in July at the new ThunderPlex in Doral.

The ThunderPlex offers basketball training throughout the year, which included four days of Cole’s summer hoops camp under the ISG Camps banner. Cole, a two-time NBA champion, also has an ISG summer basketball camp in Dayton, Ohio, his hometown.

At the camp at ThunderPlex, students improved their basketball techniques and physical fitness, while building confidence. Cole took time from his busy schedule to guide students, not only in basketball, but to help prepare them for the world.

Coach Rob Castillo, director of Thunder Athletics, said: “Not only is [Cole] here, but he gives almost all 100 children an opportunity to play with him one-on-one. He also takes time to answers questions. When Norris was talking to the children, he emphasized listening. He tells them to listen to their parents, coach and teachers.”

Cole is a role model, because he excels academically and athletically. He feels that it is essential in building a child’s confidence to prepare them for the world as well as basketball. He wants to give children the tools to succeed on and off the court.

“My son has been to other camps before, but this one has truly been the best,” said Miami’s Tomas Alvarez, whose son, Sean, participated in the Norris Cole camp. “The whole Thunder coaches are extremely professional and really care about the kids. In no other camp that my son has been on would the kids be able to play one on one or even interact with the players. That was something that my son will never forget, especially since he made [ a basket] on Norris Cole. The camp was the best ever.”

YouTube video Sean 1-on-1 with Norris Cole at his camp at ThunderPlex

Castillo is the founder and owner of ThunderPlex. He is a graduate of Sunset High School where he played basketball and ran cross-country. He also ran cross-country and track for Florida International University, graduating with a degree in sports manangement. Through Castillo, the ThunderPlex took about eight months to open, debuting in January with a basketball season that ran through April. They went from one program to eight simultaneously, including summer camps in three locations and travel programs.

Castillo said: “It is a blessing to see these kids grow and become confident.”

ThunderPlex’s travel program is competing at the state level and working toward nationals. The facility houses a knowledgeable and passionate staff that gives kids the tools they need, if they are willing to work hard. There is something for everyone -- competitive or recreational.

ThunderPlex staffer Vicky Farinas coaches at ThunderPlex and other locations. A former basketball player at Our Lady of Lourdes School in Miami, she was a member of the Thunder’s first travel team, a state championship team. She said, “It is difficult to balance academics and basketball. If a student does not do well in school, they cannot play basketball. You have to learn to balance both. That‘s what makes you a great person.”

ThunderPlex staffer Christian Solis, who has been working with Castillo since the start, added: “Learning how to interact with the students and teaching them the fundamentals are important.”

Solis, a student at FIU, believes that Cole’s interaction with the students also helped ThunderPlex.

Solis said: “Norris Cole is making a name for himself in the NBA, and ThunderPlex is making a name for itself. The kids are having a good time with him.”

Growing up, Solis played for Castillo when he coached at Conchita Espinosa Academy.

Lucas Rodriguez, 13, is a ThunderPlex camper. His mother, Mary, said her son loves the Norris Cole camp. She thinks it’s wonderful that Cole gives his time to a camp.

“I think [Cole] is a good role model,” she said. “He teaches kids you don’t have to be [either] smart or athletic; you can be both.”

Cole said his parents made him work hard academically.

“Playing sports was always extra growing up. Now it’s not. Now it’s my job. But in order to do what I wanted to do when I was younger -- play sports -- I had to make good grades. Having that balance in life allows you to be a well rounded person and helps you in sports as well as life.”

During the school year, ThunderPlex will team with Brain Gymnasium to provide complete mind and body fitness. Brain Gymnasium offers specialized tutoring, homework help, FCAT Prep, SAT/ACT Prep, and Entrance Exam Prep. Their degreed, professional and experienced teachers provide a simple and exciting approach to learning.

The ThunderPlex staff runs basketball leagues, in-house and travel, year round for boys and girls, men and women. The indoor facility also houses volleyball training.

“Hustle, Heart, Hardwork” is the ThunderPlex motto.

YouTube video interviews at Norris Cole Basketball Camp at ThunderPlex

Part 1: ThunderPlex Rob Castillo

Part 2: ThunderPlex Rob Castillo

Pro D’Aundray Brown

Pick-up game with Norris Cole and campers

ThunderPlex Vicky Farinas

ThunderPlex Christan Solis

Campers 1-on1 with Norris Cole

Mom Mary Rodriguez

Campers Javier Gil, Lucas Rodriguez

Norris Cole

• Thunder Basketball opened its new year-round facility at ThunderPlex, a 10,000 square feet facility, 1440 NW 82th Ave., Doral.

Thunder Basketball is open to boys and girls age, 4-17, with leagues for kids, teens and adults (men and women).

Thunder Basketball’s mission is to teach the principles, fundamentals and basic skills of the game. It stresses the importance of team and sportsmanship.

Thunder also encourages players to succeed in the classroom and all aspects of life.

For information visit

Registration is open.

Email or call 786-505-5585.

• Thunder Athletix and Brain Gymnasium LLC teamed to offer a complete fitness program of body and mind at ThunderPlex, 1440 NW 82 Ave. in Doral.

Students can improve their basketball skills and physical fitness, as well as strengthen their academic skills through specialized tutoring programs. They can have fun and finish their homework.

The mission is to teach the principles, fundamentals and basic skills of the game to children age 5-17.

Brain Gymnasium offers specialized tutoring, homework help, FCAT Prep, SAT/ACT Prep, and Entrance Exam Prep. Their degreed, professional and experienced teachers provide a simple and exciting approach to learning.

For information on special packages, after school programs and leagues,

visit ; or call 786-505-5585.

For information on Brain Gymnasium, visit or call 305-788-7339.

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