Kearny boys’ camp proves that interest in basketball exists

Photo by Jim Hague The Kearny High School boys’ basketball camp, under the tutelage of Kearny head coach Bob McDonnell, last week while attending the week-long camp at the high school.
Photo by Jim Hague
The Kearny High School boys’ basketball camp, under the tutelage of Kearny head coach Bob McDonnell, last week while attending the week-long camp at the high school.

Jovan George is an aspiring basketball player with a huge upside – his tremendous frame.

George is only a 10-year-old fifth grader at Kearny’s Franklin School, but he stands about 5-foot-9, which makes him fit in with any member of the Kearny High freshman class.

While George may be four years away from high school, it’s never too early to get a head start. So that’s why the youngster attended the Kearny High School Boys’ Basketball camp recently.

“Football is my first love, but right now, basketball is my favorite sport,” George said. “It always changes.”

George was one of approximately 50 young men who attended the week-long camp.

“I was taught to shoot with my fingertips,” George said. “When I shoot with my fingertips, I can make a lot more shots. I can see a big improvement in my shots. It’s been a lot of fun. I’m glad I came this year.”

Kearny High School head varsity coach Bob McDonnell organized the camp for the third straight year. McDonnell is encouraged by the amount of talent he saw in the camp.

“What shocked me this year was that there were a lot of returnees, kids who came back from last year and this year brought their relatives and friends with them. And of the 50 kids, at least 30 of them were from Kearny. That made it really nice.”

McDonnell said that many of his current varsity players served as camp counselors, so it gave them a responsibility.

“The counselors did a good job of keeping the kids’ attention and teaching them the necessary fundamentals of basketball,” said Mc- Donnell, who oversaw his own camp for a third time. McDonnell also ran a PAL basketball camp for youngsters in Kearny prior to him being hired as the head boys’ basketball coach at the school.

“The best thing was talking to some of the kids in the camp about what they learned,” Mc- Donnell said. “I talked to the kids about what they learned each day. I’ll tell you, the interest is there big-time and growing throughout the town.”

Suddenly, Kearny’s not just a soccer town anymore.

“Some of the parents stayed to watch their kids,” McDonnell said. “My coaching staff was very happy with that. It’s important to get the parents involved.”

For McDonnell, coordinating the camp brought him back to his roots. Before he became a high school and college coach, McDonnell was a youth basketball coach, back in his younger days in Jersey City and then he became a Kearny police officer.

“One of the things that brings me the most enjoyment is watching the kids learn,” McDonnell said. “They’re all bright-eyed, watching and learning. It’s very refreshing.”

Gabriel Ferreira was one of those intent students of basketball. Ferreira goes to Roosevelt School in Kearny and loves the Miami Heat, although his favorite player used to be LeBron James, before James flew the coop and headed back to his native Cleveland.

“Dwyane Wade is my favorite now,” Ferreira said boldly.

Ferreira was asked about the one thing he learned more than anything else over the course of the week.

“The jab step,” Ferreira said. “You take a step at the guy guarding you, then you go right around him.”

It was an excellent answer.

“When I saw this in the paper, I knew I had to come,” Ferreira said. “At first, I thought it might be boring, but it has turned out to be a lot of fun. If it weren’t for this camp, I’d probably be doing nothing right now, just sitting at home and watching TV. Now I wish I could always play all day long and never stop. I like basketball that much.”

Christopher Green is a promising 12-year-old from North Arlington.

“I play a lot of basketball with my friends, but I always want to get better,” Green said. “I wanted to see what this camp was all about.”

What’s the one thing Green learned in camp?

“I definitely learned that we have to work together in basketball, that we all have to be able to pull our own weight,” Green said. “I’ve also been working on my shooting and my dribbling. I feel like I’ve been getting better as the week goes on.”

Andrew Shenoda is 15 and will be a sophomore at Kearny High. He was a member of the freshman team last year, but there’s no guarantee that he will remain a part of the Kearny program.

“I think this helped me a lot,” Shenoda said. “I feel like I’m a better player, especially shooting the ball. I really needed improvement and this really helped me. I want to keep improving. It’s been a lot of fun.”

The one thing that was noticeable was the attention span of the campers. It was downright sweltering in the Kearny gym, with only a few doors open for ventilation, but providing very little solace.

Most kids would not have handled the swelter, but the campers were so tuned in that they didn’t pay any attention to the heat.

“I’m very happy with that,” McDonnell said. “It says we must be doing something right.”

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Jim Hague | Observer Sports Writer

Sports Writer Jim Hague was with The Observer for 20+ years — and his name is one of the most recognizable in all of sports journalism. The St. Peter’s Prep and Marquette alum kicked off his journalism career post Marquette at the Daily Record, where he remained until 1985. Following shorts stints at two other newspapers, in September 1986, he joined the now-closed Hudson Dispatch, where he remained until 1991, when its doors were finally shut.

It was during his tenure at The Dispatch that Hague’s name and reputation as one of country’s hardest-working sports reporters grew. He won several New Jersey Press Association and North Jersey Press Club Awards in that timeframe.

In 1991, he became a columnist for The Hudson Reporter chain of newspapers — and he remains with them to this day.

In addition to his work at The Observer and The Hudson Reporter, Hague is also an Associated Press stringer, where he covers Seton Hall University men’s basketball, New York Red Bulls soccer and occasionally, New Jersey Devils hockey.

He’s also doing work at The Morristown Daily Record, the very newspaper where his journalism career began.

During his career, he also worked for Dorf Feature Services, which provided material for the Star-Ledger. While there, he covered the New York Knicks and the New Jersey Nets.

Hague is also known for his announcing work — and he’s done PA work for Rutgers Newark and NJIT.

Hague is the author of the book “Braddock: The Rise of the Cinderella Man.”