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Mount Vernon Knights Mentor Young Hoops Campers

MOUNT VERNON, N.Y. – Mount Vernon has been Westchester County's incubator for newborn basketball talent for nearly 50 years, and the tradition of talented teenage players handing the game down to novice youngsters was evident Wednesday with summer basketball school in session at Mount High School.

“It's a good opportunity to help teach some of the young kids what we have learned at this camp,” Mount Vernon High senior guard and co-captain Josh Doughty said between drills and full-court game instruction. “I came to these summer camps. We're here from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., so they’re in a safe place with coaches and players to work with them.”

Mount Vernon High's boys' basketball coach Bob Cimmino organizes the summer youth basketball camp sponsored by the city and staffed by his varsity players, who learn the game of life by mentoring the game they play so well. Mount Vernon is a perennial New York State power and has won five state public school titles during Cimmino's 18-year tenure.

“We know the varsity players understand the program and what we expect of the campers,” Cimmino said. “I look out on the floor and see many of our graduates, college players and professional players teaching the game. It means a lot to the young kids to learn from the older guys.”

The campers, who drill for three hours, play full-court games, take lunch break and then sit for guest speakers who complement the basketball skills with life lessons. Friday's guest speakers will be former Knights greats Rodney and Scooter McCray, who went on the play professional basketball and coach at the college level.

“This camp teaches kids to have a strong work ethic and to listen to coaching,” said Knights co-captain Jamal Lewis, who will be a senior this coming fall. “I know I was here and at the Boys & Girls Club and I learned a lot from the older players. Kids need to be off the street doing something positive.”

Cimmino said the camp fee of $75 per camper allows youngsters to grow and learn in a safe environment for an affordable fee. The gym was filled with more than 75 campers getting instruction in age groups.

Brandon Martin, a 17-year-old Knights big man, said he enjoyed working with the younger players. He barked instruction during the scrimmages and made sure the campers policed their lunch area after break.

“I think we show the kids that it takes hard work to succeed and they know we have done the work to be varsity players,” Martin said. “We also learn what it takes to coach and deal with responsibility.”

Cimmino, who teaches his players to shake hands and introduce themselves by name to each person they meet, has seen the development of a strong bond between the elite high school players and their young admirers.

“It's part of the education of our players to give back and to learn what it takes to be a leader,” Cimmino said. “We appreciate the opportunity we get from the city of Mount Vernon to do this camp each summer.”

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