Hoboken native Zampella inducted to Philly ‘Big Five’ Hall
Local coaches bemoan end of Olympic wrestling
Feb 17, 2013 | 5219 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
HALL OF FAME HONOR – Hoboken native Angela Zampella was recently inducted into the Philadelphia Big Five Hall of Fame. Photo courtesy of St. Joseph’s University sports information department.
HALL OF FAME HONOR – Hoboken native Angela Zampella was recently inducted into the Philadelphia Big Five Hall of Fame. Photo courtesy of St. Joseph’s University sports information department.

Hoboken native Angela Zampella is only 35 years old and not far removed from being a super standout high school basketball player at St. Dominic Academy.

So the idea of being named to any Hall of Fame is a little early for Zampella, who just last year was playing professional basketball in Italy.

But Zampella was nonetheless pleased that she was recently inducted into the Philadelphia Big Five Hall of Fame, an organization that has honored many basketball greats who played for one of the Big Five colleges in the City of Brotherly Love, namely Penn, Drexel, LaSalle, Villanova and Zampella’s alma mater, St. Joseph’s.

“Knowing the history of it, it’s quite an amazing honor,” said Zampella, who is back in her native Hoboken these days, after not returning to Italy for what would have been her 11th season playing pro basketball overseas.

“St. Joseph’s nominated me a while ago, but I just wasn’t around to be able to accept it,” said Zampella, who returned to Philly to receive her award Jan. 25. “It’s really not something I aspired for, but to receive an honor like this is incredible. You don’t think something like this could happen until you’re in your 40s or 50s. To be recognized now is incredible.”

Zampella went back to the old Palestra to receive her award.

“I hadn’t been back to the Palestra in a long time,” Zampella said. “It forced me to remember some of the great times, some of the great games I played there.”

After graduating from St. Joseph’s in 2001, compiling 1,509 career points and earning All-Atlantic 10 honors three times and All-Big Five honors twice, Zampella had a tryout with the Houston Comets of the WNBA.

“But it never amounted to much,” Zampella said.

With that, the opportunity to play in Europe came about. Zampella had to file for dual citizenship in both the United States and Italy (her grandparents were born in Italy, giving her the chance to file for both).

“It was really a long process and wasn’t easy,” Zampella said.

Zampella played in Austria, Spain and Latvia – “A beautiful place,” Zampella said – before settling in Italy, where she had stints with teams such as Comense (where she spent three years), Faenza, Familia Schio and Pozzuoli, where she played last season.

“We played like one game a week there,” Zampella said. “It’s a little more physical than here. You learn a lot more about team basketball. But the hardest part was being away from home. I was alone and everyone was back home in Hoboken. After a while, it was okay, but it’s not like college, where I was a two-hour drive away.”

Zampella said that she was able to make a decent living playing pro basketball in Italy.

“Some made hundreds of thousands,” Zampella said. “I wasn’t that lucky. But it was always something I wanted to do. I got to experience the different cultures in different countries. It was amazing.”

Zampella said that she was set to return to Italy for another year.

“But the offers weren’t that good,” Zampella said. “I had a chance to go back after Christmas, but once I was home, I was home.”

Zampella is unsure what the future holds. She has a business degree from St. Joseph’s.

“Maybe I’ll finally use that,” Zampella said. “We’ll see. You never know. I could say that if I officially retire, then I did what I wanted to do in basketball.”

Zampella credits her late father, as well as her mother and brother, Hudson Catholic head football coach Lou, for helping her along the way.

“It makes you sit and think about what I did,” Zampella said about receiving the Hall of Fame honor. “It’s how people view you. But to get an award like that was really amazing.”…

The International Olympic Committee announced this week that wrestling will no longer be a part of the Olympics in 2020.

That news hit home to two of the area’s best wrestling coaches.

“It’s kind of shocking,” said North Bergen wrestling coach Jerry Maietta, whose team will face Hackensack this weekend for the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 1, Group IV championship. “It’s one of the oldest Olympic sports. I never would have thought that. I don’t understand why they would want to eliminate wrestling. It’s every wrestler’s goal, to perhaps become an Olympian. That’s the pinnacle. To take it away is just crazy.”

“I think it’s a shame,” said St. Peter’s Prep wrestling coach Anthony Verdi, whose team suffered a tough setback to Don Bosco Prep in the Non-Public A semifinals Wednesday night. “Socrates once said that the greatest runner is no comparison to an average wrestler. Kids who wrestle look at the Olympics the way football players look at the NFL. It’s the same thing. Without wrestling in the Olympics, there could be repercussions, like more colleges dropping the sport.”

Verdi pointed out that former Prep standout Kondrad Dudziak just missed making the Olympic team a few years ago.

It also was a driving force that kept North Bergen native Steve Mocco in the sport for a decade, with his motivation being winning the Olympic medal.

There is still one chance that the IOC might change its mind, but if it remains this way, the sport of wrestling will definitely suffer…

Weehawken baseball and basketball standout David Strandberg has agreed to a scholarship package to play baseball at the University of Rochester…

The Demarest/Hoboken High Schools Sports Hall of Fame is seeking nominations for the Class of 2013. Athletes who have graduated 10 or more years ago are eligible. If you have a candidate, send the nominations to Buddy Matthews at 15 Church Towers, Apt. 8L, Hoboken, NJ 07030 or call (201) 424-5435. The dinner will be May 10 at the Hoboken Elks…

Hudson Reporter Boys’ H.S. Basketball Top Five: 1. St. Anthony (20-1). 2. Hudson Catholic (23-1). 3. St. Peter’s Prep (17-5). 4. Marist (18-2). 5. Snyder (17-4)…

Hudson Reporter Girls’ H.S. Basketball Top Five: 1. Lincoln (20-0). 2. Secaucus (19-1). 3. Bayonne (17-5). 4. North Bergen (15-5). 5. St. Dominic Academy (17-5)…--Jim Hague Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com.

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