Most local basketball camps are of the coed variety, but they really don’t offer young girls much of a chance to enhance their basketball skills. The coed camps are dominated by the boys and the girls are treated as also-rans.
However, there is a local basketball camp in the summer that is strictly for young ladies.
For more than the last 10 years, Kearny veteran head girls’ basketball coach Jody Hill organizes a camp that is solely for the girls. Sorry, no boys allowed.
It’s a recipe for basketball success, because the girls don’t have to worry about being pushed aside in drills and games. The entire camp is strictly for them.
“It’s a great opportunity to build confidence,” Hill said. “All the girls enjoy it. It’s nice for them.”
It’s also a golden chance for the little ones to learn about the sport.
Take for instance 7-year-old Brianne Kelly, who was asked what she learned the most in the recent camp at Kearny High School.
“I learned how to jab and go,” Kelly said, without missing a beat.
Eight-year-old Vanessa Costa, going into third grade at Franklin School in Kearny, displayed what she learned.
“I learned how to be a triple threat,” said Costa, getting into the proper stance for a player to either pass, shoot or drive.
Costa went right into a triple threat stance like a professional.
“This definitely makes me want to play more,” Costa said emphatically.
The little tykes are the ones that make Hill smile the most.
“It’s a blast to watch,” Hill said. “They’re so cute. They’re all learning the game and taking it all in. I never have to deal with kids that young. They all come out with great things. They listen to what you say and they go home and show their parents what they learned to do.”
Hill said that they went over the triple threat stance on Monday, the first day of camp. Costa still had it fresh in her mind on Friday, the last day.
“I love seeing that,” Hill said. “It never gets old.”
The campers at the Kearny Girls’ Basketball Camp learn a lot about fundamentals, ball handling, shooting, proper stances, defenses and the rest.
“But we also want to keep it fun,” Hill said. “We never want to make it look like we’re going through the motions. We want to keep it fresh for them. We want to have something new every day. You can see that they all have the passion for the game and a passion for learning. We’re getting them to start loving the game of basketball at an early age. And there’s nothing better than seeing them come back year after year.”
Dana Sabato is a 13-year-old camp regular from Lyndhurst. This was the fourth time she attended the Kearny Girls’ camp.
“I always learn something different,” Sabato said. “I just keep getting better and better every day. I love the coaches and the counselors here. I want to come back.”
Sabato said that she learned more about ball handling this year, because she is predominately a post player.
“Changing up for me was a lot of fun,” Sabato said.
Kaitlyn Aquino comes from a name of girls’ basketball royalty in Kearny. Her cousin, Janitza, recently graduated from Montclair State after leading the Red Hawks to the NCAA Division III Final Four in basketball last March. Janitza Aquino is a former Observer Female Athlete of the Year during her days at Kearny High.
Kaitlyn, 14, will enter Kearny High in the fall.
“Whenever someone asks me, I have to tell them the whole story about being related,” Kaitlyn Aquino said. “It’s hard to be better than Janitza, but I do have a lot of fun playing basketball.”
Aquino said that she learned how to pivot, then turn and shoot. She also worked on her ball handling.
“I’m very excited to get the chance to play for Coach Hill,” Aquino said.
Alyssa Deo is a 12-year-old resident of Verona. Her mother, Tammy Bubenas, was a teammate of Hill’s at Harrison High and Pace University. Her grandfather, Joseph Bubenas, ran Harrison Recreation for a while, so Deo has some strong athletic genes.
“I’m usually a guard, but I learned how to post up down low,” Deo said. “I never had to learn how to do that before.”
Diana DeSousa is already a member of the Kearny girls’ basketball program, having just finished her freshman year at the school. So DeSousa knew what to expect from the camp.
“This just gave me the chance to have more practice,” DeSousa said. “This will help me get started for the upcoming season. I think I developed more as a defensive player.”
All in all, Hill enjoyed working with all the girls. Some 72 in all attended the camp.
“It was a good turnout,” Hill said. “We had some girls who came for the first time. But we’re seeing some girls that were here at age 7 and are still coming back again at age 11 or so. It says we must be doing something right.”
That’s for sure.
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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.”