Hot shots

The Penn Academy Sum­mer Bas­ket­ball League is giv­ing loc­al hoop­sters an op­por­tun­ity to play all sum­mer long.

For Bob Hoff­man, sum­mer­time in the city has al­ways in­cluded one vi­tal com­pon­ent — bas­ket­ball. 

And that’s why, for the past eight years, he has provided loc­al ath­letes with an op­por­tun­ity to shoot hoops all sum­mer long. 

“This is ba­sic­ally to keep the kids play­ing. I just want to see them play bas­ket­ball,” said Hoff­man, cre­at­or and dir­ect­or of the Penn Academy Sum­mer Bas­ket­ball League. “There’s no cham­pi­on­ship. There are no play­offs. It’s just an op­por­tun­ity for kids to play bas­ket­ball. Who­ever wants to come and play, plays.”

Hoff­man cre­ated Penn Academy’s sum­mer league eight years ago with six teams. Nowadays, there are 35 teams and al­most 500 par­ti­cipants who are in fifth to 12th grades. 

The league is di­vided by age groups — grades five and six, grades sev­en and eight, and high school ath­letes. There also are sev­er­al fe­male teams in the league. 

While some of the squads are loc­al — in­clud­ing com­pet­it­ors from Fath­er Judge, Arch­bish­op Ry­an, George Wash­ing­ton and Frank­ford high schools — oth­ers travel from Brides­burg, West Philly and even New Jer­sey to par­ti­cip­ate in the league. 

“It’s been a really good pro­gram for us,” said Penn Academy pres­id­ent Mi­chael Greco. “It’s al­ways grow­ing. We in­clude all skill levels. You don’t have to be at the top level. Any­one can play.”

The sum­mer league costs $450 per team, which Greco ex­plained usu­ally trans­lates to about $45 per ath­lete. The fee cov­ers a re­vers­ible jer­sey and ref­er­ee pay­ments. All coaches are vo­lun­teers. 

“I run the league, run the of­fi­cials and coach at the same time,” Hoff­man said with a smile. “I have three teams I coach on Monday nights, one on Wed­nes­day night, and one on Thursday that I’m work­ing with.”

Hoff­man has been Penn Academy’s bas­ket­ball dir­ect­or for 13 years, im­ple­ment­ing the sum­mer league, travel ball and an AAU league dur­ing that time. He’s also the head coach of Ro­man Cath­ol­ic High School’s fresh­man team.

Ac­tu­ally, Hoff­man has been coach­ing since he was 18. His as­so­ci­ation with Penn Academy goes back to shortly after his gradu­ation from Ab­ra­ham Lin­coln High School. At the time, he was play­ing for Penn Academy’s 18U bas­ket­ball squad while also coach­ing the 16U team. 

After gradu­ation, Hoff­man was in­vited to try out for the 1976 Olympic team, but suffered a severe knee in­jury and was un­able to par­ti­cip­ate. He later con­tin­ued his coach­ing ca­reer with St. Kath­er­ine’s CYO squad for five years and, even­tu­ally, Ro­man Cath­ol­ic High School. 

“Bob is a great coach. He’s well-known in the neigh­bor­hood,” said Neil Frye, a Holmes­burg res­id­ent who also coaches in the Penn Academy Sum­mer League. “He has a lot to teach. He’s out here vo­lun­teer­ing his time. This is prob­ably one of the biggest years yet.”

The sum­mer league is in ses­sion for nine weeks. Games are played Monday through Thursday at the Penn Crisp Gym on Academy Road. 

“I like it here be­cause all of the play­ers con­trib­ute and you learn a lot,” said Isaac Vazquez, 12, a point guard and shoot­ing guard. “It’s fun and it’s something to do in the sum­mer.” 

Once the sum­mer league is done, Hoff­man will present skill clin­ics in Septem­ber and Oc­to­ber on Sat­urday and Sunday nights, also at the Penn Crisp Gym. The clin­ics of­fer ba­sic in­struc­tion­al coach­ing and teach the fun­da­ment­als of bas­ket­ball. The clin­ics are free and open to the pub­lic.

ldquo;It’s usu­ally word of mouth. You can walk in here one night and there are two kids in here work­ing out, and you walk in the next night and there are fif­teen,” said Hoff­man. “I’m here do­ing bas­ket­ball re­gis­tra­tion for the reg­u­lar sea­son, so I just open the gym up to who­ever wants to be here.”

Es­tab­lished in 1960, Penn Academy now has more than 1,000 kids in­volved in its vari­ous pro­grams. Al­though Penn Academy also of­fers base­ball, soft­ball, out­door and in­door soc­cer and dance leagues, bas­ket­ball con­tin­ues to stead­ily in­crease its num­ber of par­ti­cipants. 

“To have the ded­ic­a­tion he has, it’s rare,” said Frye, re­fer­ring to Hoff­man. “It’s not every day that you see a coach vo­lun­teer­ing his time to run free clin­ics. It’s a great thing. As long as he’s do­ing this, I’ll be here to help him.” ••

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Ed­it­or Melissa Yerkov can be reached at my­

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