Lot of promise at Lyndhurst girls’ hoops camp

Dani Nicolette is an 11-year-old girl who is headed into the sixth grade at the new Lyndhurst Middle School. She recently enlisted at the Lyndhurst  Recreation Girls’ Basketball camp, spearheaded by veteran coach Paul Passamano.

Nicolette was overjoyed to be one of the 50 or so young ladies to attend the camp that was held at the Lyndhurst Recreation Center.

“I like it a lot,” Nicolette said. “I like meeting new people and trying new things. I’ve been playing for about three or four years. But this is great.”

The camp, the first of its kind in Lyndhurst, attracted a lot of experienced players and newcomers alike. It was definitely a breath of fresh air, considering that there was no activity at all last summer due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I had nothing to do last summer,” Nicolette said. “I just mostly stayed home.”

Lea Eglenowitz, a 9-year-old headed into the fourth grade at Roosevelt School, was in the same boat.

“I just stayed inside,” Eglenowitz said. “I did arts and crafts and stuff at home. But it was not as much fun as this was. This was a lot of fun.”

Passamano has been coaching girls’ basketball for 34 years, including a three-year stint as the head coach at now-defunct Queen of Peace, was approached by the powers-that-be in the town to run a camp. Passamano wanted to insure that it was a girls-only camp.

“I didn’t want to have a co-ed camp,” Passamano said. “I didn’t want to do anything except for a girls’ camp. In my mind, girls listen more.”

Passamano is the president of then Lyndhurst Recreation Girls’ basketball league and coaches the town’s travel team. He was excited with the turnout for the week-long camp.

“This is great,” Passamano said. “I try to find the weakest girls and make them dribble and pass. I know that girls get shy being at a boys’ camp. But here, they’re all equal. This gives me energy. I’m 68 years old and I get excited being here, because these girls give me energy. I love it. They show me that they want to learn the game. I know the parents all wish the girls could stay here for eight hours.”

Passamano didn’t know the kind of reaction a girls’ camp would bring.

“I had no idea,” Passamano said. “It’s July and a lot of people go on vacation. Having it in July is tough. So when I got 40, I was happy. More than that, I was excited. I want to do it every year, as long as my body and mind can continue. I would like to be here forever.”

Passamano said that he just loves working with girls.

“When I blow the whistle, everything stops,” Passamano said. “The girls know when they hear the whistle that it’s time to listen to instructions. I love it.”

Lia Caswell is a 9-year-old who will enter fourth grade at Roosevelt School in a few weeks.

“I liked this a lot,” Caswell said. “I learned how to make layups. I learned how to shoot better. It encourages me to play more. It really has helped my confidence.”

That’s perhaps the main element, the primary goal of the camp, to instill confidence and make it more comfortable playing basketball.

“I learned how to shoot a proper layup,” said Leah Lemanowicz, an 11-year-old who will enter sixth grade at Sacred Heart School. “I only like playing with girls, because boys don’t play fair. I feel like I’m a better player now. This really encourages me to play more.”

“When I first started playing, I really didn’t want to play much because I wasn’t that good,” Nicolette said. “I learned a lot about shooting, because I wasn’t a good shooter.”

Aubrie Passamano has her own personal coach, namely her grandfather.

“I like having my Grandpa as a coach,” said Aubrie, who is nine years old and will enter the fourth grade at Roosevelt School. “I also like that there are no boys here. If they were here, I wouldn’t have as much confidence.”

Aubrie Passamano said that she learned a little more about shooting the ball.

“I learned how to shoot at the right angle,” Aubrie said. “I learned how to shoot layups. It really helped me a lot being here and makes me want to play more.”





“I want to do this every year, because I want to bring more notoriety to the girls,” Passamano said. “I want to build this up. I want to get their names out there. I want them to get equal attention to the boys.”






From left, Danielle D’Alessandro, Quinn Dolaghan, Sophia D’Alessandro, Lane Pallante and Luciana Villacis work on their ball handling under the watchful eyes of camp director Paul Passamano (rear) at the Lyndhurst Recreation Girls’ Basketball Camp at the Lyndhurst Recreation Center. Photo by Jim Hague


The Lyndhurst Recreation Girls’ Basketball Camp welcomed as many as 50 girls to the camp recently. Photo by Jim Hague

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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.”