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Jennifer's Heroes: Ben D'Alessandro, Virginia Basketball Academy

By: Jennifer Black Email
By: Jennifer Black Email

September 16, 2010

Ben D'Alessandro played basketball for Western Albemarle High School before heading to Providence to play college ball. After his playing days were over, Ben climbed the coaching ranks, working as an assistant for the University of Virginia, James Madison University and Clemson University.

However, Ben gave up his impressive career on the court to return home and teach kids the game he loves. To accomplish that goal, he started the Virginia Basketball Academy.

"You're trying to blend a lot of different people, a lot of different coaches, a lot of different backgrounds around one central mission, which is building characters and shaping lives," said D'Alessandro.

Ben says campers spend time on the court in a culture of discipline, responsibility and respect. And if they're doing things the right way, instructors say practice is always harder than the game itself.

"It requires giving it your best effort and you paying attention. It requires you maybe doing something you don't want to do to achieve something you want to achieve," said D'Alessandro.

D'Alessandro and lead instructor, Rock Watson, say the Virginia Basketball Academy develops the coaches as much as it does the kids.

"I say basketball is a mirror to life. A lot of things that you're gonna deal with in basketball, you're gonna deal with in life. You're gonna have to learn to persevere," said Watson.

Parents say the academy reinforces the messages they try and teach at home.

"Things like hard work, things like teamwork and discipline, all of those things we try and teach at home," said Steve Brown, whose son attended the camp.

Campers learn drills from a local guy who has lived the dream they're chasing today.

"It helps kids in our local community say, 'Hey, here was a guy that grew up in our community, went to Western Albemarle, maybe someday I can be as good as him, maybe I can make the team,'" said D'Alessandro.

The Virginia Basketball Academy runs year-round, and instructors are getting ready to start a developmental league in the area. You can find out more about the league, here.

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