With all the Uncertainly, Camden County Basketball Coach Lou Abbattista Keeps Working at Building his Program

With all the Uncertainly, Camden County Basketball Coach Lou Abbattista Keeps Working at Building his Program
There are few sports duties more difficult than guiding a junior college program in any sport. That’s because teams are really in a rebuilding situation every year.
 
Even though the players stay for two seasons, many times, there are defections and a coach must have the mindset of recruiting a new team each season.
 
This year, with the coronavirus pandemic, the situation has become more challenging. That’s became many, if not all of the postseason high school all-star games, the spring AAU events and other basketball related games showcasing high school seniors have been cancelled.
 
That doesn’t mean recruiting has stopped, it just makes it more difficult.
 
Even for a program that has been as successful as Camden County College.
 
“It’s a different kind of recruiting now,” said Lou Abbattista, the highly successful men’s basketball coach at Camden County College and a basketball lifer.
 
With a 171-92 record in nine seasons as head coach, Abbattista has enjoyed great success. He says he misses going to see players but there are other ways to recruit.
 
“It is a different kind of recruiting,” he said. “You are using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. The players aren’t playing and are at home and at least I have a chance to talk to them because they haven’t been able to go anywhere.”
 
Camden County College is a Division III junior college, meaning that it doesn’t provide athletic scholarships.
 
What Abbattista sells is the success of the program and it goes well beyond wins and losses.
 
One of the things he prides himself is his connection with colleges throughout the country. Abbattista, a 1975 Haddon Heights graduate, feels a deep obligation to help the youngsters get to the next level. If they put in the hard work in practice, games and in the classroom, he will do his best to help them with recruiting.
 
He says nearly 40 players have gone on to further their basketball career and education since he has been head coach. That is a source of pride.
 
Indirectly it is a big help in recruiting.
 
Many players ideally would like to begin their career at a four-year college. Usually the two reasons why a player may come to a junior college basketball is either due to grades, or because he has fallen through the cracks.
 
Some players also peak at different ages and attending junior college is a way to improve your game before moving on.
 
Of course, there is the perception that just because it is a two-year school, that it will be easy for anybody to come in and play.
 
That couldn’t be further from the truth, especially for a program like Camden County. There might be as many as 40 players who try out for a team.
 
Abbattista doesn’t want to list his recruits for next season because so much can change between now and when school will begin.
 
And of course, there is the added uncertainty of what a season will look like this year due to the pandemic.
 
Still, he has received verbal commitments from a number of players, and he continues to talk to others.
 
It is frequently the current players who have an impact on who the future ones will be.
 
“Your players are your best recruiters,” he said.
 
That means if they have had a good experience, they will tell others. The success stories such as that of Keshon Smith, help bring attention to the program. Smith was a second-team all-American this past season and he will attend Jersey City State, which plays in the New Jersey Athletic Conference against teams locally such as Rowan and the College of New Jersey.
 
So while things are so much different this spring, the recruiting goes on for Abbattista, who is a former successful head coach at Paul VI.
 
“We’re still looking for guys,” he said.
 
That never stops, regardless of the situation.

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Author: Marc Narducci; Photo courtesy of Camden County College

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