As a youngster growing up in the 1960's, Bob LaRicca honed his basketball skills on the playgrounds and gymnasiums of Niles.
Four decades later, the McKinley High graduate who went on to become one of the most successful high school coaches in area history is returning home to pass along his basketball knowledge to a new generation of athletes.
In conjunction with the Niles Wellness Center, LaRicca will oversee a number of basketball clinics which will be known as "Trumbull Basketball School." Group lessons which can be attended on a per-session basis will begin March 30. All area boys and girls in grades two through 12 are welcome to attend. A series of basketball camps, which will welcome area boys and girls in grades two through 10, will begin in June.
All of the group lessons and camps will be held at the Wellness Center at Waddell Park, and are open to both members and non-members.
"I am totally excited about the opportunity to host such a program," LaRicca said. "I've had a number of people over the past decade or so ask about the possibility of providing lessons to their children. I've often thought about doing something like this, but until now there just wasn't any place like (the Wellness Center) available."
"Teaching the game and teaching the fundamentals of basketball is something I love to do. I am very passionate about seeing kids properly learn the fundamentals of basketball."
LaRicca coached at Warren Western Reserve from 1980 to 1990, then took over the Warren G. Harding program when the two schools consolidated in the fall of 1990. He remained at Harding until retiring in 1997.
While LaRicca is most noted for his exploits as a high school coach, he has worked with children of all ages over the years. In fact, he began his coaching career with a one-year stint at Our Lady of Mount Carmel. That was followed by five years of coaching the Warren Western Reserve freshmen program, then five years as a varsity assistant.
For the past four years, LaRicca has served as an instructor to fifth through 10th graders at the Champion High School basketball camp.
"I firmly believe that a well-run day camp can be every bit as good as some of the camps where kids have to travel and spend a week away from home," LaRicca said. "Our lessons and camps will be far more affordable, and every bit of the time will be well-spent on teaching the game of basketball."
Among those assisting LaRicca will be longtime area coach Vic Binben, girls coach Denise Naples and current Niles McKinley High standout Ryan Frantz.
LaRicca expects to get more area coaches involved in what he says is just the beginning of a series of lessons and camps.
"I believe these lessons can be a great asset for so many reasons," LaRicca said. "This is especially true at the lower levels, where junior high coaches are so limited in time and court space. When they do get the time with their kids, they have to concentrate on putting a team together. All too often, the basics are overlooked."
"I'll go to a basketball game and I'll become so frustrated because I see players who get the ball in their hands and ignore some very basic fundamentals of the game. We're going to work from the basement up and hopefully develop sound players."
The series of group lessons will focus on basic offensive fundamentals, ball handling, shooting, defense and rules. Lessons will be held on six consecutive Mondays and Wednesdays beginning March 30. Boys and girls in grades two through six begin their lessons at 6 p.m., while the seventh through 12th grade sessions begin at 7:15.
The cost for each session is $12.
A series of day-long camps are scheduled: June 8-11 (boys grades 7 through 10), June 15-18 (boys grades 5 through 8) and June 22-25 (girls grades 6 through 10).
There will also be a half-day camp running from June 29 through July 2 for elementary-aged boys and girls.
The cost for full day camps is $95, while the half-day camp fee is $50.
"This first series of lessons and camps is just the beginning. We're planning on this being an ongoing feature at the Wellness Center and you'll soon see additional dates posted" LaRicca promised. "I've done a lot of research and homework and I truly believe that we have as much to offer as any basketball clinic in the area."
LaRicca also expressed his delight in the Wellness Center, and the opportunities it offers to area residents.
"Not just from a basketball standpoint, but from an overall quality of life standpoint, this place is a godsend to Trumbull County. It offers everything and at a great price. It will pay huge dividends in a number of ways, especially to our youth," LaRicca said.
For more information regarding the basketball lessons and camps contact LaRicca at 330-369-8277 or 330-307-9345. You can also contact the Wellness Center at 330-349-9355, or you can stop by the center to pick up registration forms.