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Basketball Academy: SU coaches create leadership program

Microphone in one hand, Mike Hopkins hurled a basketball against the gymnasium wall. It soared high over the heads of mostly orange clad H.W. Smith students, only to ricochet back into his hand.

The crowd erupted in cheers. Hopkins didn't miss a beat, repeating the action and saying, "Basketball is a game of reaction. Always be ready. Being alert and ready."

Hopkins, Syracuse University assistant coach and heir apparent to Jim Boeheim's coveted top coaching position, is taking his game off campus. Partnering with former SU great Gerry McNamara, who is also on the Orange's coaching staff, they have created the Basketball Academy.

This academy is for children age 7 years old to sixth grade and focuses on creating "Leaders For Life" in the framework of the basketball genre.

Stan Kissel, director of SU's basketball operations, will also be involved, as well as his wife Nicole, a teacher at Corcoran High School, who developed the educational life skills component of the program.

"The main thing is to use basketball to enhance life and life skills," Stan Kissel said.

When, where and how much

The academy meets two evenings (Monday and Thursday) a week for 12 weeks, starting May 3 and finishing July 22. Players will be grouped on their level of ability.

"It's not about how good of a player you are," Hopkins said, "It's about becoming the best you can be."

There is a one-time cost of $1,000 per child. That's $44 a week, or $22 a session. There is a fund- raising element, as a portion of the program's proceeds will go to the Jim and Julie Boeheim Foundation.

"This is a perfect environment to learn," McNamara said. "You have the benefit of the best facility in the country with some of the best coaches in the country."

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