Kamela Gissendanner always wanted to hold a summer basketball camp for young girls in Clairton and surrounding areas.
“I wanted to give back to my community,” said Gissendanner, 25, who hails from Clairton.
“The mission is to develop, teach and educate young women and help them become successful athletes.”
Her dream came true this summer when she held her first Kam’s Kamp at McKeesport Area High School Aug. 5-6.
About 60 girls between eight and 17 from Clairton, Norwin, Elizabeth and Monessen, learned such fundamentals as having a positive attitude, maintaining a strong work ethic and setting goals. The girls also worked on their shooting, passing, dribbling and free throws.
Each camp, which cost $50 in advance and $60 for walk-up entrants, ran from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. The girls were provided with lunch and a T-shirt for their participation.
“I want my players to be great citizens and wherever they are from they can reach their potential,” she said. Gissendanner, who began playing basketball at the tender age of eight, was one of the great players at Clairton High School. As a Lady Bear, she was ranked 10th nationally by the All Star Girls Report. She led the team to back-to-back WPIAL titles in 2001 and 2002. After playing for North Carolina State upon graduating from Clairton, Gissendanner transferred to Penn State University.
At Penn State she was selected as the Third Team All-Big Ten by the Penn State Coaches. Gissendanner received an honorable mention All-Big Ten Choice by the media. She was the 30th Lady Lion to reach 1,000 points.
Following her career at Penn State, Gissendanner went on to play as a guard in the WNBA for the Los Angeles Spurs. After a brief stint coaching in Europe, Gissendanner is currently employed as an assistant basketball coach at St. Francis University.
“I fell in love with the game. It was something for me to do and I was good at it,” she said.
Gissendanner enlisted the help of basketball rival and off-court friend, Charel Allen, for the camp. Allen is a former star of the Lady Greyhounds in Monessen. After graduating from Monessen, Allen was a star player at Notre Dame and went on to play in the WNBA for the now-defunct Sacramento Monarchs. She currently plays oversees.
“We were rivals in high school, but once we reached college we became friends. We had a great turn out of girls and they are willing to learn,” Allen said. “I wanted to help Kam with this camp because these are the women of the future. I think this was a great success and hopefully the girls will spread the word about it to their friends. If Kam has the camp again next year, I will definitely be there to help her.”
Gissendanner hopes to make Kam’s Kamp an annual event.
“I want to have the camp every year and I want to create a scholarship fund,” Gissendanner said.