East Xtra: Penn Hills grad Schifino starting an AAU basketball program

Former Penn Hills

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When Drew Schifino was growing up in Penn Hills and looking to play AAU basketball in the late 1990s, he had two options at the time, play for the Pittsburgh Metro or Pittsburgh JOTS.

Amateur Athletic Union basketball has grown in the area since Schifino's high school days at Penn Hills that wrapped up in 2000.

There are dozens of teams throughout the area competing for the same players. Schifino, now back in the area after six years of playing basketball overseas in Poland, Austria, Switzerland, Portugal, Holland, Czech Republic and Germany, thinks there is room for at least one more AAU program for local players.

Schifino plans to launch New Generation Sports Academy next spring.

He expects the program to be based around the Penn Hills-Monroeville area and to initially start with programs for players in grades six through 11.

"I think it is the right time," Schifino said. "AAU has grown since I was around, now you have a lot of guys who want to play. I want to do AAU to get guys better and prepare them for college."

There are many challenges in starting a new AAU program in a crowded field, but Schifino has plenty going for him. For one, he has name recognition.

Schifino was one of the greatest scorers in WPIAL history and the greatest postseason scorer in WPIAL history. In 2000 Schifino led Penn Hills to a WPIAL Class AAAA title with an unforgettable run of scoring. An athletic 6-foot-3 guard, he scored 147 points in four playoff games, a record that still stands. It was a postseason scoring average of 36.8 points per game highlighted by a 40-point effort in the WPIAL semifinals and a 39-point performance in the championship game, a WPIAL Class AAAA final record.

Schifino is the eighth-leading scorer in WPIAL history with 2,318 career points.

He went on to play at West Virginia University where he averaged 20.1 points per game during the 2002-03 season. He was dismissed from the team in the midst of the following season by coach John Beilein.

He played at California University of Pennsylvania and in the CBA for the Pittsburgh Xplosion before a six-year stint overseas. He returned to Western Pennsylvania last year and was hired as head coach of the Waynesburg Central varsity boys basketball team.

Winless in section play the previous season, Schifino led the Raiders to two section wins this season.

"I thought about going back overseas to keep playing," said Schifino, who will turn 33 in September. "After this past year of coaching, I felt that I love coaching. I really feel that I like coaching better than playing."

Schifino said he left money on the table in deciding not to return overseas to continue to play professionally. On top of that he commutes about one hour each way from his home in Penn Hills to Waynesburg for practices, games and open gyms throughout the summer.

"I am a guy who likes challenges," Schifino said of taking over a struggling Waynesburg basketball program. "It is a one-hour drive there and one hour back, you can tell I care about the kids. I told myself when I was hired if I don't really like coaching, I am going to go back overseas. But I found out that I love coaching, I love being around the kids."

Schifino also has connections. By his count, his phone contact list contains 19 WPIAL titles, four PIAA titles and three NCAA Final Four appearances.

"Trying to get the top guys and best guys will be a challenge since there are a lot of AAU teams," Schifino said. "I have a resume, I have real connections and I can still play."

Schifino has big plans for NGSA. He wants to expand it to girls sports as well as other sports.

"I am doing it to give back to the community," Schifino said. "I was lucky enough to have a chance to play basketball and go overseas."

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