Local college star offers basketball clinic to River Wards kids

Jen McCook, née Ricco, in a player’s card from her time playing basketball for Temple. PHOTO COURTESY OF JEN MCCOOK

Port Richmond mom Jen McCook will help local kids with their basketball skills in upcoming clinics, and maybe set them up for the same glory she’s had in her career.

Temple University basketball hall-of-famer and Port Richmond mom Jen McCook says the basics of playing basketball are pretty easy. It’s just that some kids don’t ever hear about them.

McCook is passionate and knowledgeable when explaining the elements of the game — handling the ball, dribbling and shooting correctly.

These instructions, McCook said, are just the basic things she was taught as a young basketball player. Now, she’ll impart her wisdom on local kids who want to learn the game.

“I know every little basic thing they need to do in order to be the best they can be,” she said of her students.

McCook recently started hosting one-on-one basketball clinics with several Port Richmond kids, and this week is launching her first group basketball clinics for third-to-fourth graders and fifth-to-eighth graders. The group clinics will be held at Samuel and Cohox recreation centers.

Walk-ins are welcome, she said.

McCook, an elementary school teacher with the School District of Philadelphia and former high school basketball coach, said that from working one-on-one with youngsters, she has learned that kids don’t always get taught the fundamentals.

“Even if they’ve been playing, they might not have been taught the correct way to do it, because maybe their coach wasn’t taught to play that way,” she said. “When you play at the Division 1 level, you know each little baby step you need to take.”

For McCook, teaching sports locally is a throwback to her days as a record-breaking basketball player at Temple University. In January, she was officially inducted into the Temple University Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame for her performance during the 1993–98 seasons — under her maiden name, Jen Ricco.

McCook, a lifelong Port Richmond resident, said that as a kid she spent her free time playing at Frank Glavin Memorial Playground.

In middle school, she was noticed for her skills on the court after playing an all-star Catholic Youth Organization game in the 1980s, representing St. Adalbert Church.

Afterwards, McCook was invited to join the Philadelphia Liberty Belles, a women’s Amateur Athletic Union team. She toured the country playing with the Belles, while attending Jules Mastbaum Vocational/Technical School in Kensington.

McCook was targeted for recruitment to numerous Division I basketball teams. She elected to go with the women’s basketball team at Temple University.

While playing for the Temple Owls, McCook earned second place in all-time steals per game record (2.4), and she still holds the single-season steals per game record (3.6), for the 97–98 season. She pegged her career steals at somewhere in the low 300s.

McCook was also a leading scorer in the 93–94 and 97–98 seasons. She’s ranked 11th overall at Temple for career scoring, with 1,236 career points. She was named to the Atlantic 10 First Team in 1998, and the Atlantic 10 All-Rookie Team in 1994.

Playing for Temple was a great experience, McCook said — culminating in the “Big 5” tournament of the 98–99 season, between teams from Temple, Villanova, St. Joseph’s, UPenn, and La Salle.

That year, McCook and the Temple Owls went 2 and 2, but went home feeling like winners after wiping the court with St. Joe’s and UPenn.

Since graduating Temple, though, McCook has focused on raising her four kids. This year, as she wraps up a four-year maternity leave from teaching, she came up with the idea of offering her basketball clinics to local Port Richmond kids.

McCook admitted that she hasn’t played in any league games recently. But she still loves to throw the ball around on the playground with her kids.

“It’s something I would definitely like to be doing. Teaching is what I’m good at, and teaching basketball is even better,” she said.

To get more information about signing up for clinics with Jen McCook, call (267) 325–1416 or email at riccoj23@aol.com.

Reporter Sam Newhouse can be reached at 215–354–3124 or at snewhouse@bsmphilly.com.