by RENALDO DORSETT
Tribune Sports Reporter
Before they took to the court for the Bahamas Basketball Federation’s Summer of Thunder Exhibition Series, the Penn State Nittany Lions engaged in a community outreach effort with the island of Eleuthera.
Penn State staged a youth basketball clinic in Governor’s Harbour Eleuthera on Saturday, hosting dozens of aspiring student athletes on the island.
Several players and members of the coaching staff facilitated the camp, which included various drills and competitions aimed at skill development.
Andrew Johnson is the head coach of the Harbour Island All-Age school and runs one of the most successful youth basketball programmes in the Family Islands.
His teams have captured 11 division titles at the Father Marcian Peters Basketball Classic, the national tournament for primary and junior high school players, and he brought 14 members of his programme to Govenor’s Harbour for the event.
“It’s a great inspiration for these guys to have a team from a programme on the level of Penn State come down here and work with them. It gave them a chance to have fun, but also to learn at the same time. You can see the excitement and we need more events like this, as much as possible. These guys love to play the game so they couldn’t wait to be apart of this clinic. Anytime they have an opportunity to show what they can do they take advantage,” Johnson said, “To see people that have made it and are able to use basketball to get an education is a wonderful thing and I hope some of these lessons stick with my guys. They realize playing at a higher level takes a lot of work and you have to put the time in. It’s not about just going on the basketball court and bouncing a ball, but it takes a lot of hard work, many times by yourself, the guys from Penn State did that to get where they are so hopefully that message resonates.”
The Nittany Lions outfitted each of the participants in team apparel and two competition winners were also awarded authentic jerseys. The balls used at the clinic were also donated to the island for use with youth basketball programmes.
Sophomore forward Lamar Stevens said the experience took him back to his days as a young player when he was on the receiving end of many lessons.
“I remember being a kid on the park where I grew up and having older guys that I would look up to and they taught us a lot, whether it was directly or indirectly. It’s always good to be able to learn as much as you can about the game from some older guys and help your process along,” he said, “We want this trip to be a business trip, we want it to be fun but at the same time we love the idea of giving back to the community is something that’s very important to us as well. It was fun, the kids were excited and engaged and that always makes it a better experience for everybody. They came out with energy and they wanted to learn and we loved working with them.”
Keith Urgo is in his sixth season as a member of the Penn State coaching staff and fourth serving as an associate head coach. Urgo spent two seasons as an assistant coach at Penn State before being promoted to his current post in June of 2013. He is in his 10th season overall in collegiate coaching and formerly worked with Patrick Chambers as a member of the Villanova coaching staff.
“It’s a wonderful experience, both for our guys and the people in this community. We’re in the business of helping to develop basketball players, but also to develop young men and a part of that is showing them the importance of giving back to a community through opportunities such as this,” Urgo said, “This is a beautiful place and we’re blessed with a chance to come here and be a part of this special event. You can tell there is a lot of talent here, you can see people are working with these kids and for some of them that potential is just beneath the surface just waiting to drawn out. Hopefully this can be the start of something special for them and Penn State basketball was pleased to be apart of that.”
The Urgo family has a permanent presence on the island as principal developers of the Cocodimama Resort in Governor’s Harbour.
Following the clinic, the team was treated to an afternoon at the Cocodimama, situated at the center of Alabaster Bay’s beach where they had an opportunity to experience the resort’s many amenities.
Penn State made its last foreign trip in 2013 — programs can take international trips every four years — when the Nittany Lions went to Belgium, France and England. The Nittany Lions’ trip offers the fanbase the first glimpse of the programme’s freshmen - Jamari Wheeler, Trent Buttrick and John Harrar.
In their first game, Penn State outlasted the New Providence Basketball Association All-Stars, 109-105 in double overtime Sunday afternoon. Back-to-back games will take place on Tuesday, August 8 at 6 pm against the Providence Storm and following evening at 7 pm against the Bahamas All-Stars.