Hoopsters Whoop It Up at Basketball Clinic

San Leandro Times

Kids find fun during Christmas break; flock to basketball camp
Jim Knowles

A wave of kids ran across the gym floor, yelling their heads off. But nobody told the boisterous bunch to be quiet. In fact, the coach told them to make more noise. They weren’t loud enough. So the kids did it again and really went wild, winning the approval of coach Tony Freccero. Freccero, believe it or not, really wants to teach kids the fundamentals of basketball, but that doesn’t mean the lessons have to be boring. “You have to keep the kids motivated and excited,”  Freccero said during a five-minute break. But the coach has a reason behind that motivation, something that’s compelled him to hold basketball clinics such as the one this week at Assumption School. American basketball players aren�t learning the fundamentals, he believes. “Europeans are taking over the NBA,” he said. “They have 7-footers who can dribble the length of the floor.”  Freccero, who is a substitute teacher in the San Leandro schools, played basketball for Bishop O’Dowd High and Cal State Hayward.

He’s currently an assistant coach with the O’Dowd boys’ basketball team. He laughs about his professional career in the Australian National Basketball League. “I played for the Sydney Kings-for three games,” he chuckled. “Then they told me to go back to America.” But the brief stay in Australia wasn’t the trip that really inspired Freccero. He said he got more out of a later excursion to Brazil, the home of his girlfriend, Joana. He helped run a basketball clinic in Rio de Janeiro, even though he didn’t speak the language. “Basketball is the universal language,” Freccero said. He was inspired by the kids who showed up at the clinic. “Some of the kids didn’t even have shoes,” he said. “They have poverty like we never imagine.” But in a country dominated by soccer, the kids’ enthusiasm for basketball touched Freccero. He decided to start his own basketball academy here, which he named the Triple Threat Academy.

Assumption Athletic Director Jim Leahy let him us the school’s gym. The kids at the clinic come from Assumption School, St. Leander’s, Bancroft Middle School, Roosevelt Elementary and other schools. They learned defensive skills and the fundamentals of making a good shot.  “Some of you came in here this morning putting up shots like this,” said Freccero, taking a wild hook shot, “because that’s what you saw on TV.” Then the kids learned how to follow through and put some backspin on the ball when they take a shot. Sometimes the kids get the idea but not the entire concept. For instance, when the coach asked why you should put backspin on the ball, one of the players answered, “Because that’s what you want to do.” The coach replied with an approving, “Good answer!”