(Photo by Bill Allen/NJ SportAction)
Dave Kosa was in mid-season form last week as he coached his Princeton Youth Sports (PYS) team against Hoagie Haven in the Princeton Recreation Department Men's Summer Basketball League.
Kosa, the Princeton High boys' basketball head coach, was a bundle of energy on the sidelines of the steamy John Witherspoon gym as he called out defenses, cajoled his players, and greeted good execution with loud clapping.
In Kosa's view, getting the most of his PYS squad, which is comprised of PHS hoops players, will help the high school program's learning curve.
"This league is great because we're learning to compete for a full 32 minutes," said Kosa, noting that with the summer league games being 40 minutes long, his players get even more chances to gain vital experience. "We're learning that we can't take any plays off. The main reason we got into this was to get mentally and physically tougher."
Kosa is already seeing the benefits of that process. "We're playing in two leagues and it's showing in the other league," said Kosa, whose club also plays in a league in Allentown which features high school teams from Mercer and Burlington Counties. "We can talk about it all we want but the best thing is for them to go out there and do it against men and against Division I players."
While PYS will take its lumps in the Rec Department league, Kosa expects the team to be more competitive as the summer unfolds.
"The first two games we played were one-sided," said Kosa, whose team gave Hoagie Haven a battle before succumbing 52-40. "It took a game or so for us to understand what it takes to compete at this level. We were in striking distance tonight pretty much the whole way.
PYS entered a team in the Rec Department league two summers ago but decided to take a year off in 2005. Kosa decided that the inexperience of the players currently in the program dictated a return to the men's league.
"We had nine seniors graduate from last year's team," explained Kosa, who got 22 points from sharpshooting Joe Rogers in the loss to Hoagie Haven.
"We thought with our youth and inexperience, we needed to mature. We know we're going to be on the losing end of a lot of games here but that's not the main thing. The one thing I want them to do is to compete hard against these guys; that's the way we're going to get better. You see A.J. Dowers banging against bigger guys and Joe Rogers going against quicker guards."
Kosa is confident that having his players be boys among men this summer will pay dividends over the next few winters.
"We're getting there, we're going to have a long haul the next couple of years," asserted Kosa. "We figure the best way to do it is to get them out here right now so next year we'll be better and we'll be even better the following year. The freshman team went 16-5 last year so by the time they're seniors they will have the experience; that's what we'll be relying on."
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