Saturday, October 4, 2008

Cadets are happy campers

TROY – Steve Sgambelluri has yet to coach a game at La Salle, but he is already making an impact on the Collar City basketball scene.

About 50 youngsters participated in the first annual Troy Kids Hoop Festival at the school on Saturday morning, a two-hour session of instruction and pick-up games that was free for city boys in grades four through eight.

Jordan Nelson, a 12-year old from Troy, made a game-winning, buzzer-beating layup in a 5-on-5 game as the festival wound down. The gym exploded in cheers, as his teammates, some of them strangers just a few hours before, swarmed him with high-fives.

“I learned some ball-handling skills,” Nelson said. “And I got to work on my shot a little bit too. It was just a really fun day.”

Nelson, an eighth-grader at Doyle Middle School, heard about the camp when Sgambelluri saw him playing in a city park.

Nelson hopes to enroll at La Salle next fall.

Sgambelluri orchestrated Saturday’s event with help from junior varsity and modified coaches while his varsity players served as coaches for the day.

“We’re thrilled that everyone came,” Sgambelluri said. “We had a great turnout and we’re hoping to do this again.”

The varsity players explained various techniques and strategies to the campers before the players lined up and counted off for a series of scrimmages.

“We were working on the fundamentals and then we got together and played some games,” said Rich Smith, a junior basketball player at La Salle. “I think they learned a lot today and I think they had a really good time in a nice, relaxed atmosphere.”

“I was teaching them to keep their head up when they dribble, to think pass before shoot and just work together as a team,” Sean Ryan, also a junior at La Salle, said. “(The varsity team) works together as a family so we wanted to reach out to the community too.”

Sgambelluri, who is also the Middle School Director and Admissions Director at the school, was named the varsity basketball coach in March.

A star player at Bishop Maginn in the late 1990s, Sgambelluri became a four-year letter-winner at the College of Saint Rose. During his senior season - 2000-01 - Sgambelluri averaged 18.4 points per game for the Golden Knights. He is the 22nd all-time leading scorer in school history with 1,049 points.

He coached the varsity team at Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk in 2002-03 and later served as an assistant coach at Saint Rose.

“I love when our student-athletes are here and are able to work with the younger kids,” Sgambelluri said. “Our kids are really committed to the youth of the City of Troy and that’s a great start. We really are a family environment and we’re preaching family values. The kids have bought into that.”

The high school season begins at the end of November and the Cadets are looking to wipe the slate clean after a disappointing 6-14 campaign last year. The Troy Kids Hoop Festival not only energized a group of grade school and middle school students, it also has the varsity team off on the right foot.

“We’re really committed to our community,” Sgambelluri said. “I wanted our kids and some of our student athletes to come in and reach out to the youth of the city and that’s the reason why we’re doing this. It was a great event. It was a slam-dunk for us.”

-- Will Montgomery

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