Photos Courtesy of Tara DeJesus The 2018 Bell Shoals Baptist Academy JV basketball team. Right: The Panthers celebrate after a big win.

Tara DeJesus moved up to be the head JV basketball coach at Bell Shoals Baptist Academy this season, after being an assistant a couple of years prior. She played high school basketball at Rabun Gap Nacoochee School in Georgia. “I’m appreciative to be able to coach this team,” said DeJesus. “I consider it an honor and a privilege.”

The JV team consists of 4th-6th graders. According to DeJesus, there are only 10 girls on the team, and a lot of them are just learning to play the game. Only two or three girls on the team have ever played basketball before. “At this age it’s more about enjoying the game and having fun,” said DeJesus. “That’s how it’s supposed to be.”

The Panthers’ season has just begun, and DeJesus wants them to get a little better each day. One of the biggest challenges they face is that they don’t have a gym to practice in. They used to practice at the Saladino Park, but now that the park is under renovation, they are looking for another place to practice. They also have to provide their own transportation to the games. Despite all that, she has several goals that she want her team to meet. “My number one goal is for them to love basketball and want to play again,” said Dejesus.

DeJesus and her family are passionate about sports, to say the least. She not only spends a lot of her time coaching her 11-year-old daughter, Madison, who is a basketball and flag football player for Bell Shoals and has gone there since pre-K, but she is also always at her son Jake’s baseball games. Jake, 17, is a senior starting catcher for the Bloomingdale High School baseball team. He has committed to play college baseball at Felician University in Rutherford, New Jersey. Her oldest son, Austin, 19, played for the Bloomingdale High School basketball team and was on varsity from 2014-2016. He currently attends Florida State University and has recently made the Dean’s List.

DeJesus has already been asked to become the head varsity coach next season when Madison moves up to varsity.

“Enrolling Madison at Bell Shoals is the best decision that I’ve ever made,” said DeJesus. “They have small classrooms, it’s a loving Christian environment, and the teachers are great. It’s a really great place to send your kid for school.”

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Nick Nahas
Nick Nahas has written for the Osprey Observer since 2016. He has lived in the Valrico area since 2002 and has his bachelor’s degree in mass communications from the University of South Florida. He is dedicated to covering sports in Hillsborough County at every level.