Marcello D’Andrea knew that this year’s North Arlington basketball camp was going to be a little different than others.
Mainly because D’Andrea is now in charge, going from assistant coach to the new head coach with the Viking varsity.
“Honestly, there’s going to be transition when there’s a new coach, going from one to the other,” said D’Andrea, who replaces Rich Corsetto. “But I’m a pretty straight forward guy. I’ve been here for three years and I think the kids can identify with me and I can identify with the kids. I’ve been around long enough that they know me.”
Some 50 or so youngsters attended the North Arlington camp at the high school last week, much to the delight of D’Andrea.
“To see the joy in the kids’ eyes,” said D’Andrea, who was coaching in the North Arlington Recreation department for a decade before joining forces with Corsetto and the high school varsity three years ago. “That’s what it’s all about. We want to build on that. I love seeing the younger kids get excited.
Added D’Andrea, “What we try to do is get the kids involved at a younger age. That’s what we tried to do with the Rec department. We wanted to develop a level of trust through the Rec. It makes my job a lot easier. I think it shows that we’re going in the right direction.”
D’Andrea said that he was fortunate to surround himself with good assistants like George Rotondo and Rotondo’s son Anthony as well as Bobby Crudele.
“They are good basketball people,” D’Andrea said. “From a teaching aspect, there are none better.”
D’Andrea also credits the North Arlington parents for their support through the transition.
“The parents are taking a proactive approach when it comes to basketball and their kids,” D’Andrea said. “It’s a complete community involvement.”
There was a whole bunch of learning going on inside the high school gym.
Sean Manzo is a 12-year-old aspiring point guard who will enter seventh grade at the North Arlington Middle School. He had perhaps the best approach of anyone in attendance.
“I know now I have to see everything better in the open court,” Manzo said without hesitation. “I’m a point guard and I have to learn that. It helped me a lot.”
Manzo said that he enjoyed himself throughout the week.
“It was a lot of fun,” Manzo said. “I especially liked the competitions at the end of camp. Overall, it helped me become a better player.”
Justin Bunnell is a 10-year-old who learned about one particular important aspect of the game.
“I learned how to play man-to-man defense,” Bunnell said. “I learned how to get low and shuffle my feet.”
Bunnell, who will be in fifth grade at Roosevelt School in the fall, also enjoyed himself.
“I think it really helped me to become a better basketball player,” Bunnell said. “It helped me a lot.”
Ian Crudele is the 11-year-old son of coach Bobby. Ian is headed to sixth grade at the Middle School.
“I learned how to play zone defense,” Ian Crudele said. “I learned I had to keep my hands up and shuffle my feet. I feel like I’m ready to play this season.”
His eight-year-old brother Shane was also a camper.
“I’m more confident now going up against bigger players,” Shane Crudele said. “I can shoot it.”
Liam Stanley is also eight years old.
“I learned how to be aggressive,” Stanley said. “It’s important to be aggressive, especially when I get mad. That’s when I get more aggressive.”
Jaivon Aquino is a 13-year-old player in the Middle School with a lot of promise.
“I learned how to play better offense,” Aquino said. “I learned that if you pass the ball more, you can get more open. It helped me a lot. It taught me everything.”
The promising talk is sweet music to D’Andrea’s ears.
“That’s why we do it,” D’Andrea said. “We want the kids to learn and to have fun. We’re laying down building blocks now. If the kids are buying into the system, then we’re doing our job. If the little kids can take one or two things from camp and use it down the line, then we’ve done our job. I like basketball and I like teaching basketball. I think the kids like basketball as well. Our numbers (in the camp) are improving every year. We just want to keep it going in the right direction.”
North Arlington held its annual basketball camp last week under the guidance of new head coach Marcello D’Andrea (far right). Photo by Jim Hague