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Former Notre Dame player hasn't forgotten the lost art of teaching fundamentals

Fundamentals are truly an essential part of the game -- especially on the youth level, but sadly the teaching of them has almost become extinct. However, there are some coaches that still believe in teaching and developing those core fundamentals. Former Notre Dame player, Karen Robinson-Keyes of Ridgewood High School, is one of the select few that continue to lay that foundation.

Karen Robinson-Keyes addresses her Ridgewood team during a time out.
Karen Robinson-Keyes addresses her Ridgewood team during a time out.
Ray Floriani

ALLENDALE, NJ - On Tuesday the annual Blake Tournament in Northern Bergen County called for two girls games to officiate. The Christmas season, inundating roads to the malls (and my Allendale destination) turns a 20 mile trip into  a fifty minute commute.  No problem. Leaving early helps plus the excitement of working a favorite annual event negates the battling of ‘retail detail' shoppers. Working the games with Mary Ann Conboy. A good official on our officiating board, Mary Ann and I have enjoyed working together. Having a crew on the same page with good chemistry is a dynamic not unlike that of a good team.

Our games call for one seventh and an eight grade division game.

7th Grade Division:

Allendale defeated Mahwah

Mahwah got behind early but in the initial minutes of the second half reduced the deficit to a one possession game. Playing some basic 2-3 zone was enough to slow a skilled Allendale team down. The hosts never lost the lead, momentum can be huge.

Following an early second half time out, Allendale regroups and once again gets the lead to double figures. Mahwah, on their behalf, competed and my partner who had them earlier in the tournament noticed an improvement.

Eighth Grade Division:

Ridgewood over Fair Lawn

Fair Lawn buried a three the first minute to lead 3-1. Their last led of the evening. Ridgewood went into a full court press getting steals and disrupting the Fair Lawn offense. They quickly established a 10-3 lead and were never seriously threatened.

Ridgewood had respectable size but the thing that stood out was their ball handling skills. Dribbling, passing and looking for cutters. Such action was not restricted to guards and wings but the 'bigs' as well. They enjoyed a 30 point lead most of the second half and won going away.

Final observations:

Sometimes teams play too fast. Setting up an offense executing a set. A more deliberate, less helter skelter approach could work wonders.

Hardly anyone pressed. A good sign as noted many times before my opinion is teams should learn half court before trying to master full court. Remember former NBA head coach Lawrence Franks'  words, "learn the trade before you learn the tricks."

Youth basketball needs more like her. Ridgewood was talented no doubt. They were also well drilled, coached and fundamentally sound. Credit coach Karen Robinson-Keyes. She played at Notre Dame for Muffet McGraw in the early Nineties. As a former player at a high level Robinson-Keyes knows the game and is able to teach it, especially the fundamental aspects, to her players. The youth level, especially below eighth grade, is vital to development. It is imperative coaches like Robinson-Keyes, who know the game and are passionate, are out there teaching young developing players. Sadly today, those coaches are few and far between.