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Basketball Development League Becomes a Family Affair : Girls sports: The Andersons of Carson are running the operation, which attracts players from around the country.


Free time is hard to come by in the Anderson family. Leisurely activities and family vacations don't exist. They haven't since John Anderson, an athletics administrator for the Monrovia School District, founded the Olympias Girls Development League 10 years ago.

The year-round girls' basketball camp, which began at Carson's Victoria Park, has become an Anderson family affair. John Anderson and his wife, Shirley, started the organization in 1983 to give inner-city girls a place to play basketball outside of high school.

It has grown so much that girls from around the country, including some of the best players from Long Beach, have joined the league, which the Andersons run out of their Carson home.

John Anderson coaches, plans tournaments and solicits sponsors. Shirley Anderson, an accountant, handles the finances and does most of the paperwork. Both spend Saturdays running clinics at Narbonne High, Harbor College or Cal State Dominguez Hills.

The couple's 25-year-old son, James, coaches the league's younger girls, and his 16-year-old sister, Adaina, is a participant. James is also the girls' coach at Narbonne, and Adaina is a forward on the team.

"We basically have a basketball family," James said. "This is what we do in our spare time."

John Anderson says the idea of starting a girls' league developed when Adaina was born.

"My daughter was born in 1976 and I thought, 'Where is my daughter going to play after high school?' " he said. "I've coached in Slam-N-Jam (a spring and summer basketball development league for boys) and I wanted to do the same for girls."

The Olympias league has about 400 participants a year. In addition to their time in the gym, the girls can take courses to help prepare for college entrance tests.

Anderson hires a teacher each year to conduct an eight-week course in the fall and spring. Every Saturday the girls spend two hours in the classroom before going to the gym for four hours of drills.

Each girl pays $95 to be part of the program year-round, which includes an academic course, a team uniform, 10 basketball games and the Saturday clinics. For participants who can't afford the cost, Anderson picks up the bill because he says it is better than turning down a player.

"Funding is very tough," Anderson said. "It costs $50,000 a year to run OGDL. That includes traveling, uniforms, gym rentals, classroom rentals and hiring teachers.

"We take a loss every year. We've never left a kid behind, but we take a loss. If Monrovia fires me today, we wouldn't have OGDL."

Anderson's goal is to help the girls earn college scholarships. He says about 350 of the players have earned scholarships and 150 of those signed with Division I schools.

Former Morningside High standout center Lisa Leslie (USC) and her Morningside teammate, guard JoJo Witherspoon (Kansas), attended the program. Former Banning High center Michelle Campbell, who will start her freshman season at USC in the fall, was also a member of the league.

"When a girl says 'I just signed with a college,' that's my satisfaction," Anderson said. "They made it academically, but they happen to play basketball. That's what this is all about."

From June through August, the league is strictly basketball. About 60 girls ages 9 to 17 are chosen to be part of eight traveling teams that compete in various events, including the 80-team Basketball Conference International tournament in Arizona, which runs through Friday.

Later this month, the 16-team OGDL National Invitational will be staged at Harbor College and two other Basketball Conference International tournaments will be held in Las Vegas. In August, the league will have a five-day tournament at Harbor and Cal State Dominguez Hills for the Taiwanese Junior National team.

"It's a great league," said Melania Kosanovich, a 17-year-old from Buffalo, N.Y., who is participating in the summer program. "I go to an all-girls private school and basketball is different. The game has a faster pace here and the girls are more competitive."

Valarie Ogawa, a point guard at Narbonne High, says without the Olympias league she would have a limited selection of short-term summer camps.

"There's not many options for girls," Ogawa said. "This is great because you play with so many girls that are so talented and you really excel. It helps me tremendously. I know I wouldn't be playing otherwise."

Anderson says helping girls like Ogawa motivates him. Many parents volunteer with fund raising and public relations, he says, but his family is the backbone of the organization.

That's why the Andersons seldom have free time.

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