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(Photo by Bill Allen/NJ SportAction)

BACK TO BASICS: New Princeton High girls' basketball coach Nikki Inzano surveys the action at a recent practice session. Inzano, who has brought a renewed focus on the fundamentals to the program, will make her PHS debut when the Little Tigers host Lawrence High on December 19.
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Inzano Is Focused on Fundamentals As She Takes Over PHS Girls' Hoops

By Bill Alden

As a college basketball coach in Indiana, Nikki Inzano found that she didn't always like what she saw when scouting high school games.

"When I was recruiting, I'd see players who hadn't mastered the basic fundamentals," said Inzano, who coached at Indiana/Purdue, a satellite school for Indiana University and Purdue University. "I'd see point guards who couldn't dribble with their left hand, basic things like that."

Inzano, a Highland Park, N.J. native who recently relocated to the Central New Jersey area, made up her mind to do something about instilling the basics of the game at the grass roots level.

"When I moved back here, I decided that coaching in high school would be a way to give back to the game," explained Inzano, who played college basketball at Temple University.

This winter, the recipients of Inzano's knowledge will be the Princeton High girls' basketball team as she takes the helm of the program.

Predictably, Inzano is going back to basics as she tries to turn around the fortunes of a program that has endured two straight 5-18 seasons.

"What I want to do is play an up-tempo style with a lot of pressing," said Inzano, whose day job is teaching health/physical education at Lawrence High. "I like to use defense to create offense."

In conducting a practice, Inzano gets right to the essence of her approach. "We work on the fundamentals for the first 30-45 minutes of practice before we get into anything else," explained Inzano. "It's a whole new staff so the girls have to get used to that and learn everything in a few weeks."

Luckily for Inzano she has a core of four seniors, Jessica Calicchio, Alexis Dervech, Jackie Dorman, and Eliza Stasi, who have the savvy to pick things up quickly.

The Little Tigers roster will be rounded out by juniors Zoe Sarnak and Kaamilah Parker, sophomores Erin Cook and Brittney Holmes together with freshmen Kelly Curtis and Stephanie Grubb.

Inzano likes what she has seen so far in the preseason. "They are catching on quickly," asserted Inzano, whose squad tips off its season by hosting Lawrence High on December 19 and then travels to Monroe on December 22. "They are already playing together. No one individual has stood out, they are jelling together as a unit. They have to believe in themselves. I think that will come in time."

No matter how the season turns out, Inzano is enjoying giving back to the game she loves. "I'm having a great time," asserted Inzano. "I love coaching. I love to see the look in a player's face when she has made a great play."

Hopefully, Inzano will be seeing more and more of those type of expressions on her players' faces as the season unfolds.

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