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Back from the brink

Coach Bryan Camacho has boosted confidence, and the win total, at Bell-Jeff

February 14, 2007|By Jeff Tully

Bryan Camacho was warned about what difficulties he might encounter with this year's Bellarmine-Jefferson High girls' basketball team.

Camacho, a Bell-Jeff graduate and former hoop standout, built the Guards' program into a divisional powerhouse before departing for a college position in 2004.

Although he returned to coach at the school in May, the program was in much worse shape than he had left it.

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In the 2005-06 season, Bell-Jeff went just 4-12 and the team had won just nine nonleague and three league games in two seasons.

To make matters worse, confidence among the players was almost nonexistent, and the once-powerful program had become a doormat for teams looking for a sure victory.

"A lot of people told me that I was going to have to be a very patient person going into this season with this team," Camacho said. "They told me that I shouldn't expect very much and this team wasn't going to be very good at all."

It was a situation perfectly suited for Camacho.

Camacho is the Donald Trump of motivation. He is an Energizer Bunny with a whistle; a guy who has had the word "impossible" permanently removed from his vocabulary. He also thrives at the opportunity to make something out of almost nothing."

"I have two sisters who played for Coach Camacho, so I knew about him and I knew what a great coach he is," Bell-Jeff junior Melissa Burrola said. "So, when I heard he was coming back, it was like the heavens [opened up.]

"I knew things were going to change with him here."

And change they have, in quite the drastic fashion.

With almost the exact team as a year ago, Bell-Jeff heads into its first CIF Southern Section playoffs in three years Thursday with an 18-7 record. For those who are mathematically challenged, that's a remarkable 14 more wins than last season.

In addition, the Guards placed third (4-4) in the Santa Cruz League, arguably the toughest league in Division IVAA. Four of the teams from the league are seeded among the top seven in the division for the playoffs.

"I have to give a lot of the credit for the success to the players themselves," Camacho said. "They have been the ones who have put in all the hard work and they are the ones who have gotten the wins, not me.

"It's just great to see how much these kids have developed this season. They have complete confidence in themselves and they now realize that they are winners."

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