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Does a young person in your life have hoop dreams?

Hoop Dreams Basketball Academy is more than an advanced skills training camp. If you know a kid who needs room to grow and loves to play, check out what they have to offer.

Nadia Bosket is currently looking for a few, good women basketball coaches who can respectfully and effectively coach Philly youth, including youth who’ve experienced trauma. 

She’s also interested in talking to folks, especially Black and Brown professionals, who could lead fun, relevant lessons in financial intelligence, STEM, and career choices, from event planning to accounting.

Last: She probably wouldn’t mind getting a few courts donated over the summer. Anyone?

You can support their work here.


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Hysier Miller’s story


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Citizen of the Week: Nadia Bosket

The founder of Hoop Dreams, Inc. has figured out how to help Philly kids make friends, be confident and focus on opportunities, using basketball as bait

Citizen of the Week: Nadia Bosket

The founder of Hoop Dreams, Inc. has figured out how to help Philly kids make friends, be confident and focus on opportunities, using basketball as bait

The summer before Hysier Miller started eighth grade, he spent a couple days at Hoop Dreams, a free summer basketball camp. Miller would go on to be a standout point guard at Neumann Goretti, then Temple University, and is now readying for his senior year at Virginia Tech. Hoop Dreams Basketball Academy didn’t help him much in the way of ball skills. At age 14, he was already dominant on the court.

Instead, the South Philly baller gained something else: He found a champion in Nadia Bosket, the camp’s founder. “She’s someone I look up to a lot,” Miller says. “I like everything that Nadia had to offer: her vision as far as the camp, bridging the gap between boys and girls, that it’s free and that anybody can apply.”

In 14 years, Hoop Dreams has hosted more than 4,000 campers. Each weekend-long camp draws 300 to 350 mostly Black players, ages 10 to 17 (plus a few younger sibling outliers). The camp has also grown beyond basketball to teach communication, financial, tech and leadership skills.

“Basketball,” Bosket says, “is the bait.”

Bad at basketball

Growing up in Cobbs Creek, Nadia Bosket loved two things: doing volunteer work alongside her mom and brother — like helping the homeless in kid-type ways, such as making sandwiches for people in shelters — and … basketball.

The sport was fast and fun, part of Philly culture, as accessible as her neighborhood court. Bosket played on teams from about fourth grade through middle school and in a summer league. She had the drive to play college ball, maybe even go pro. There was just one problem.

“I suck at basketball,” she says.

“Oh, I love the sport. I’m just not that good, and I can own that.”

A group of about seven Black children wearing shorts, t-shirts, sweats and sweatpants, approximately ages 10-12, surround Nadia Bosket, a Black woman wearing a blue t-shirt, white shorts and neon green sneakers, partially kneeling on a basketball court and offering them instructions.
Hoop Dreams campers. Photo courtesy of Nadia Bosket.

Bosket didn’t play in high school. Yet sometime between assembling donate-able PB&Js and watching her friends hoop, she realized there was a way to do both. “I love basketball. I want to give back to the community,” she decided. “Let’s marry the two.”

At Temple, Bosket majored in sports management. During her senior internship at a sports events management company, she learned about all kinds of things you need to put a camp together: outreach, insurance, staff, facilities, sponsors. There was really nothing left to do except … go for it.

“We want to expose kids to other career choices, to understand that they can choose a career in computer science, a career in engineering.”— Hoop Dreams Founder Nadia Bosket

The summer after graduation, Bosket held her first Hoop Dreams camp at Temple. She did everything right: Got backing from corporate sponsors, including the Sixers. Got friends who played ball at Temple to volunteer as coaches. Recruited campers at public courts, YMCAs and AAU games.

One hundred kids said they’d come. Forty showed.

“I felt defeated,” she remembers. “Like, I’m never doing that again.” Bosket’s mom, however, saw 40 campers as a win, and convinced her daughter to try again the next year. By then word had spread. The next summer, 175 kids showed. “We’ve just been growing ever since,” Bosket says.

A free weekend camp

Every summer, Bosket rents courts — at Temple, La Salle, St. Joe’s Prep, Girard College, and / or University of the Sciences (now part of St. Joe’s University). Because transportation is an issue for most of their campers — including those who live in shelters — Hoop Dreams tries to host multiple sessions per summer in various parts of the city.

Each camp includes a free lunch and a gym bag filled with a Sixers headband, t-shirt, stickers and other donated swag. Some campers take home trophies for winning a bracketed Sunday tournament. Everyone gets a medal.

Hoop Dreams’ sponsors include the Sixers (still) and PECO, Bosket’s employer. The nonprofit has also gotten help from Dick’s Sporting Goods, Mitchell and Ness, the Staples Foundation, the Lenfest Foundation and DTLR. To raise more funds, they’ve hosted sneaker balls and won a couple of grants. (In this way, the group is not unlike other free basketball programs around town, notably, Philly Youth Basketball, which opened an impressive new facility this year.)

NBA and Euroleague players have shown up to meet the campers. Bosket’s friends who live far away have done research to find the best prices on t-shirts and equipment. Her mom does so much, people think it’s her operation. A professional athletic trainer volunteers. So does a nurse, and about 15 coaches, including some from the first very camp. Also, former campers step up. That’s how Hysier Miller got involved.

At age 15, Miller came back as what Bosket calls a “Hoop Dreams ambassador.” The then-rising high school freshman would pitch in wherever: assisting with skills and drills, getting kids water, taking out the trash. Meanwhile, Miller’s own game grew. When Temple was looking to recruit him, Owls Coach Chris Clark reached out to Bosket.

Hysier Miller, from his days at Temple University.

“When kids are getting different offers from various college teams, it’s a very intimate, private process,” says Bosket. She walked Miller through it, step by step. As a Temple alum, she had only good things to say about her old school. Miller took her word for it, accepted the scholarship, and enrolled.

To date, Miller is Hoop Dreams’ most on-court accomplished former camper. When he comes back, he’s both a coach and a celebrity, dispensing advice on moves and process. He tells kids to be consistent, “If you put basketball first, you’ll be able to take your game to the next level, and see the results that you want.”

But neither Miller nor Bosket is naive. They know the odds of any child going as far as Miller has are steep. The NCAA reports 3.6 percent of high school boys and 4.5 percent of girls will go onto play college ball. About 1 percent get to play at Division I schools. About 1 percent of all college ballers go pro.

That’s one reason why Hoop Dreams has become more than hoops. The other is the kids themselves.

 “One thing I never saw was a woman doing what Nadia is doing.” — Zuliesuivie Ball, Bosket’s colleague at PECO and a Hoop Dreams volunteer

Listening to kids

The first four summers, camp was exclusively about basketball. But once Bosket and her coaches developed relationships with returning campers, they realized the kids needed and wanted more than court time. It was clear that these young players required a safe space, a forum where they could learn to communicate, learn to lead, learn to make new friends. These elements are just part of what Hoop Dreams is, an accepting, nurturing, empowering realm.

The kids also outright asked for things: better lunches and longer days, lessons in personal finances and STEM. Hoop Dreams complied.

Last year, Bosket brought in The Tech Bodega, a Black women-run org working to bring more Black and Brown representation in technology fields. Tech Bodega helped campers experiment on 3D printers. Kids DIYed medallions, necklaces, glasses, whistles and trinkets.

Hoop Dreams campers at The Tech Bodega's 3D printing workshop.
Hoop Dreams campers at The Tech Bodega’s 3D printing workshop.

“We want to expose them to other career choices, to understand that they can choose a career in computer science, a career in engineering,” says Bosket. Financial literacy workshops have become part of camp too.

Hoop Dreams’ reach has expanded beyond camp itself. They’ve organized a winter coat drive for the NOMO Foundation, helped connect kids with other coaches and arts programs, and, for the past five years, given out prom dresses.

Bosket admits this last effort began as an outright ploy to recruit more girls for camp. The first year, she got a bunch of friends to donate old gowns. The next, she scored donations from bridal stores and netted a few hundred frocks, many with the tags still on. Hoop Dreams prom event is now a two-weekend affair named “a Cinderella story,” where racks of gowns display at an event space bedecked in pink and purple.

At Hoop Dreams' prom dress giveaway, A Cinderella Story. gowns hang from racks in an events space while people browse around.
Hoop Dreams’ prom dress giveaway, A Cinderella Story.

So far, Bosket’s given out about 1,200 dresses. But she no longer gives out camp pamphlets to the prom-goers. Instead, she’s let old-school word of mouth work its magic. Hoop Dreams’ current boy-to-girl ratio has grown to 4-to-1. And, while 20 percent girls might not seem like a lot, despite the current phenomena of Angel Reese and Caitlin Clark and Dawn Staley, it still is. Also unusual: a woman-run basketball camp.

Bringing back neighborhood courts

Zuliesuivie Ball is a colleague of Bosket’s at PECO and member of a basketball dynasty. Her uncle founded the Chosen League, known for its high level of competition and summer games outside the Wells Fargo Center. Every year, Ball would have to drop her brother off at basketball camps. “One thing I never saw was a woman doing what Nadia is doing,” she says. “Every time I took my brother to a camp, it was male, male, male … Nadia is a breath of fresh air.”

Last year, Ball brought her fiancé’s sons to camp and volunteered to film social media content there. (And not just because together, Nadia and she are Bosket and Ball.) Ball captured Hoop Dreams’ restoration of the outdoor court at 52nd and Parkside, where they installed an on-court mural, new backboards and rims. The transformation was enough to inspire the neighborhood to start its own summer league there.

The organization has done the same for the outdoor courts at the Norman “Butch” Ellis Rec Center, a neglected Parks and Rec facility in Mantua. Bosket has served as project manager for four more outdoor court restorations. “Creating that space, when you add color, put up new backboard and rims, people in the neighborhood appreciate that,” she says, “They’re proud of it. Then, they want to come out and play.”

A before and after of a basketball court at 39th and Olive streets in Mantua, restored by Hoop Dreams.
A before and after of a basketball court at 39th and Olive streets in Mantua, restored by Hoop Dreams.

Real connections

When Bosket thinks about her proudest Hoop Dreams moment, she talks about her coaches. She says they teach more than a sport. They teach kids to stand up for themselves, bring them out of their shells, and foster new friendships through cooperation. They even have something to teach campers’ families.

Bosket recalls one dad, recently widowed, with four kids. He was worried about his eldest son, who’d been having suicidal ideation and didn’t know what to do. “You know how it is with men, they don’t think they have to coddle their children or say ‘I love you.’ It’s a tough love type of thing,” she says.

One day, at pickup, “He saw one of our coaches hugging his son, and it resonated with him, like, ‘Wow, these are complete strangers that are uplifting him, loving on him.’ And he’s like ‘I don’t even do that for my own.’” It was a lightbulb moment, the whole reason why Bosket started her camp, to bring people closer together.

“Hoop Dreams is a place where you can be yourself and grow bigger than basketball,” says Miller. “I see groups of kids who come back consecutively, year after year, just to hang together.”

Last summer, Miller worked with Temple’s Tuff Fund to host his very own free summer basketball camp based uptown at Cristo Rey High School. Even though he’s now in Blacksburg, VA, he plans to re-up Hysier Miller Point Guard Academy Camp this summer. One thing’s for sure: He’ll be back in time to coach at Hoop Dreams.


Nadia Bosket, front and center, with Hoop Dreams campers and coaches.

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