Earlier this year, the Hancock College women’s basketball team wrapped up one of its most successful seasons in recent history.
Led by fourth-year head coach Cary Nerelli, the Lady Bulldogs made it to the playoffs for the first time in 22 years.
Unfortunately, the Bulldogs’ postseason run was short-lived. They lost to Santa Ana College, 75-63, in the first round of the playoffs in late February to finish their season at 17-10.
“But the thing I’m most proud of is our team GPA (grade point average),” said Nerelli. “Our team GPA was 3.2, the highest in the Western States Conference (WSC). We’re representing the WSC North in the state GPA competition and I think we’ll repeat as state champions.”
Never a man to sit around for very long, Nerelli was back on Hancock’s Joe White Memorial Gymnasium court Monday trying to pass some of his vast knowledge on to the young crowd.
Nerelli and assistant coach Larry Carney were holding court for a younger generation of players — a much younger generation. The girls’ ages ran from six to 13.
With the help of a number of local high school and Hancock players, Nerelli and Carney held their fifth annual Bulldogs girls basketball camp.
“We’ve got a nice turnout,” said Carney. “Every year this camp gets bigger and bigger.”
“The first year we only had a dozen kids,” said Nerelli. “Now we have three times as many.”
The Lady Bulldogs’ continued improvement has helped the camp grow.
“As our team has gotten better, our camp has grown bigger,” said Nerelli. “Some of the kids have come back year after year. It’s fun to watch their progress.”
Running from Monday through Thursday, the campers are learning the basics of both offense and defense before wrapping up each day with some basketball action.
“We try to group them according to age and ability,” said Nerelli. “So after we run through warm-up exercises, we hold some drills to see where each of the girls should be placed. We want them working with other girls who have similar skills. We try to make it educational and fun for everybody.”
On Monday, the coaches put three dozen young women through the first day of a strenuous, yet fun, four-day basketball camp.
The girls learned ball handling skills, proper passing technique, post play, body balance, defense, rebounding, how to make good shots — from layups to jump shots and free throws— all the basic skills they need to improve upon as basketball players.
“We hope they’ll take these skills, go home and work on their own to use what they’ve learned to be better players,” said Nerelli. “And we hope they’ll take a positive attitude to go along with their new skills back to their school and club teams.”
Six of Hancock’s players and one high school player assisted Nerelli and Carney in running the camp.
“Most of our Hancock kids are local including the young women helping us out today,” said Nerelli. “And we do keep an eye on these kids as they play junior high, high school and club ball. I can already see some of these kids that I would recruit down the line, so someday you may see some of them wearing a Bulldogs uniform.”
Two of the camp assistants are very familiar to local basketball fans.
“We have Pioneer Valley graduate Vanessa Ortiz, who was a freshman on our team this year,” said Nerelli. “And we have Danielle Morgan, who will be a senior at Lompoc High in the fall. Her mother, Claudia Terrones, is the longtime Lompoc High girls’ basketball coach and her stepfather, Paul Terrones, is the new boys’ basketball coach at Lompoc High.
“I’ve attended this camp before but not as a coach. I’ve attended a number of camps like these since I was little,” said Morgan. “I love helping kids, especially the ones who are coming into high school. I really enjoy it.”
“It’s fun to show the kids how to play basketball the right way,” said Ortiz. “I like to teach them the basic skills they need to play the right way. I love to help them improve their game.”
“We want our Hancock players and local girls like Danielle to come out to help us,” said Nerelli. “The main thing they learn is how important it is to be involved in the community and they get to help the girls who will follow in their footsteps along the way.”