North Area youth learn basketball fundamentals from former SU star Gene Waldron

Gene Waldron and some young girls at the North Area Family YMCA cheer at the end of their program

For an hour each week, dozens of kids at the North Area YMCA work on their basketball skills under the direction of former SU star Gene Waldron.

Every week, both boys and girls ranging in ages from 8-13 do shooting, passing and other drills pertaining to basketball...having fun but learning the basics at the same time.

Before Waldron took over the program a few years ago, the hour-long blocks were more based on general pickup basketball, not necessarily the fundamentals of the game, which are key for the "Teen and Tween" age group.

"I see the difference tremendously in my daughter," Jeffrey Manzo, who's daughter Beth has taken part in the program for four years, says. "She has Downs Syndrome, and I mean I never would've dreamed a few years ago that she be dribbling two balls at one time down a court."

Manzo says his daughter has made several friends along the way as well, which goes along with Waldron's goal that the kids learn good habits in all aspects of life, and not just sports.

"It's just not about basketball," Waldron who played at SU from 1981-1984, says. "It's a structural thing and they take it outside of here when they go home."

So, in addition to those basketball skills, the children learn sportsmanship, teamwork and how to make friends.

"Everybody here is a good player, and we support each other, and it's fun to be here," Holly Sleeth, who lives in Liverpool says.

Some kids know of Waldron's fame as a member of the Syracuse Orangemen, while others don't, but whether they recognize his skills or not, they pay attention because of his confidence and knowledge of the game of basketball.

"His presence, whether the kids know who he really was or is, doesn't really matter, his presence alone brings that assertiveness that grabs their attention," Manzo says.

The program is one of several sports and fitness programs at the YMCA in Liverpool, with Waldron's basketball programs running year-round as well.