Abbey Granelli is nine years old and headed into the fourth grade at Kearny’s Roosevelt School. Abbey – and she will be the first to tell you that it’s Abbey with an “EY” at the end – loves playing basketball. Abbey will tell you that as well.
“I love playing basketball,” young Abbey said. “I play basketball almost every single day.”
Young Abbey should love playing hoops. After all, Abbey’s grandfather is part of basketball royalty.
Abbey’s grandfather Mike Granelli was one of the most successful and storied women’s basketball coaches in NCAA history. When he retired in 2004, Granelli, a former long-time resident of Kearny, compiled a historic 32-year career at St. Peter’s College in Jersey City, becoming one of only three coaches in NCAA Division 1 women’s college basketball history to ever win 600 games at one school.
The other two are in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, namely Jody Conradt of Texas and the late Pat Summitt of Tennessee.
Granelli won at least 17 games in 23 of 24 seasons and took his team to the NCAA Tournament nine times, a record for any coach in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.
For 17 years (1972 through 1989), Granelli handled double duties at St. Peter’s, also serving as the men’s soccer coach and has recorded more victories than any other soccer coach in the school’s history, winning 163 times.
Granelli is a member of the St. Peter’s, the MAAC and the Hudson County Athletic Halls of Fame.
Young Abbey knows that her grandfather was a famous basketball coach, but wants to be able to carve her own niche in her young basketball life.
That’s why Abbey attended the Kearny Girls’ Basketball Camp recently, held at Kearny High School, under the tutelage of Kearny High head girls’ basketball coach Jody Hill, a legend in her own right after a brilliant playing career at Harrison High and Pace University, becoming a member of the Hudson County Athletic Hall of Fame as well.
Hill has also written her legacy as the highly successful head coach of the girls’ basketball program for the last 23 years and guided the Kardinals to a 22-win season last year, the highest single-season win total in the girls’ basketball program’s history at Kearny.
Abbey Granelli’s mom Jackie was a basketball player at Harrison High and her dad Bryan was a fine soccer player at St. Peter’s Prep and St. Peter’s College (playing for his father at SPC). Bryan Granelli is currently the vice-president of the Kearny Board of Education.
Recently, young Abbey wanted to make a name on her own and tried to do so at the Kearny Girls’ Basketball Camp, the only one of its kind locally that features strictly female attendance.
“I learned a lot in the shooting drills,” Abbey Granelli said. “I also learned how to dribble with my left hand. It was really great because there were no boys.”
Brooke Lynn Pulcine is eight years old and she attends Schuyler School. She was also happy about one particular aspect of the Kearny Girls’ camp.
“I like coming here and there’s all girls,” said the adorable and affable Brooke Lynn. “Because I really don’t like boys that much. Having all girls here really helped me a lot.”
Pulcine, who also loves playing softball, but was overjoyed to be part of this camp, was quick to point out one specific drill she learned during the course of the four-day camp.
“I learned how to dribble two basketballs at the same time,” Pulcine said, then displayed that prowess almost immediately. “I love it. I had an amazing time here. It was amazingly fun and makes me want to play more.”
Can anyone top “amazingly fun” at anything they do this summer? Beautiful Brooke Lynn put everything in perspective.
Charli Valente is also eight years old and attends Garfield School.
“I learned about boxing out the right way and becoming a better rebounder,” young Charli said.
Now there’s someone who should be picked for a lot of pick-up games in her neighborhood.
Ava Hyams is 13 years old and going into the eighth grade in a private school in Paramus. A proficient point guard and shooting guard, Hyams used the camp to work on other things.
“I worked harder on playing defense,” Hyams said. “I think I am a better defender now.”
Jessenia Edwards is 12 years old and goes to Lincoln School.
“I improved my ball handling,” Edwards said. “I want to play in high school, so I have to get better there.”
Edwards said that she enjoyed getting the chance to play with the current Kearny High players who were counselors at the camp.
“I also got to know Coach Hill,” Edwards said. “She seems like she’s a lot of fun. I liked being able to play with other players I didn’t know.”
Needless to say, seeing nearly 80 young ladies having a lot of fun playing basketball in Kearny is music to Hill’s ears.
“I think the best part of the camp is that 90 percent of the kids live in Kearny,” Hill said. “It’s such a rewarding feeling to see so many great young kids wanting to play the game. And after seeing some of the talent here, these kids are going to be stars. It really helps our program.”
Hill knows that she has her work cut out for her, replacing standouts like Estefania Dilone, who will play basketball at Bloomfield College in the fall, and 2017-2018 Observer Female Athlete of the Year Meagan McClelland, who has begun her college soccer career at Rutgers University, playing for Kearny native Mike O’Neill.
That’s why it was refreshing to see so many youngsters attending the camp. Maybe some might become future players for Hill at Kearny High.
“That’s what makes this so enjoyable, seeing all the little ones,” Hill said. “That’s what it’s all about. We had a nice group of girls ages eight-to-10 and that’s the perfect age. They all want to learn about the game. They are like sponges. They soak it all in. They want to learn everything, even the basketball vocabulary. They all get excited when they learn something new. They’re learning and having fun at the same time. Every kid tries to get something out of camp.”
And it’s a time of year that Hill really likes.
“I can never get bored being with the kids,” Hill said. “I always look forward to camp. It’s one of the most enjoyable things of the summer. It actually makes my summer, seeing the same kids coming back. I feel like I’m making an impact on them. I see them have the same focus and they keep getting better and better. It keeps me going.”
Hill has enough already on the plate, being the mom of 7-year-old Ethan and 4-year-old twins Macey and Owen.
“Since I now have little kids, it makes being around little kids a lot of fun,” Hill said.
Let’s see if the coach says the same thing come bed time.
In the meantime, Abbey Granelli knows that if she needs a pointer, that she has someone to go ask now – her grandfather.
“I will ask him things,” Abbey Granelli said.
What kind of things remains to be seen.
There was a strong turnout at the Kearny Girls’ Basketball Camp, under the leadership of Kearny High head coach Jody Hill (center). Almost 80 girls attended the recent camp at Kearny High. Photo by Jim Hague
Brooke Lynn Pulcine of Kearny learned how to dribble with two hands, shown here at the Kearny Girls’ Basketball Camp at Kearny High. Photo by Jim Hague