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Former Penn Hills basketball star looks to establish AAU chapter

| Wednesday, July 2, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
Eric Schmadel | Tribune-Review
West Virginia forward Drew Schifino drives the baseline during a 2003 game against Duquesne University. Schifino, a 2013 Penn Hills Sports Hall of Fame inductee, is planning to start an AAU program in the area.

Basketball has always been a major part of Drew Schifino's life.

The Penn Hills native and former West Virginia University hoops standout was inducted into the Penn Hills Sports Hall of Fame last year and is preparing to organize the New Generation Sports Academy (NGSA) as a chapter of the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) Western Pennsylvania region.

“During my professional playing career overseas, I knew someday I would want to give back to the Pittsburgh youth,” he said.

Schifino spoke with the Progress recently about his love of the game and his hopes to impart that passion to local children:

Q: What is your vision for how the organization will run?

A: The vision behind NGSA is large. We will start out with a boys' basketball team. Then, we will incorporate female teams, football and branch out through additional avenues: camps, three-on-three events, tournaments and some nonprofit aspects. I want this to be a program that everyone is excited to be a part of and that hosts Pittsburgh's most elite athletes.

Q: How do you plan to raise funds to pursue the various goals you've set for the New Generation Sports Academy?

A: The funding will come from various donations, sponsorships and events.

Q: Particularly when it comes to basketball, AAU groups have caught some flak for devaluing the team game and emphasizing individual players — do you believe that perception, and what will be your approach to teaching younger kids the game of basketball?

A: I do believe it's the perception of AAU basketball, unfortunately. The reason is because most people that run these programs are in it for the wrong reasons. They are all about the money. I am doing it because I love working with kids and making kids better on the court and most importantly, off the court. Also, these people who run programs haven't been around a ton of basketball, so they don't necessarily know the importance of good fundamental basketball. I've played at every level of basketball. So, I know the importance of fundamentals and with that mindset it will definitely rub off on all the kids. At the end of the day, it's all about how you construct your practices, camps and clinics.

Q: What are some of the most important lessons you've learned in your basketball career that you can impart to Academy participants?

A: The two most important lessons I've learned are that you must master the fundamentals to be a great basketball player. And that team success brings individual success.

Q: What is the most difficult lesson you've learned while playing basketball?

A: To trust in your coach and trust in your teammates.

Q: What are your goals for the Academy's first year, and where would you like to see it in five years?

A: My goal in the first year is to gain many loyal participants and followers and to establish a strong foundation for many years to come. My five-year goal is to be known nationwide and to become Western Pennsylvania's most credible AAU organization that includes the best amateur athletes in the area.

Patrick Varine is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7845 or pvarine@tribweb.com.

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