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La Jolla Hoopers find success

By Phil Dailey

Contributor

Club basketball at the youth level is on the rise in La Jolla.

During the past weekend, the La Jolla Hoopers wrapped up their winter season by capturing two championships with their fifth grade “A” team and their sixth grade “B” team.

Led by the club director, TJ Brown, the Hoopers are flourishing on the court at the fifth- to eighth-grade levels, but are producing talent that will feed the La Jolla High School basketball team for years to come.

Brown took over the club three years ago and now has more than 100 participants as well as a girls teams that take on the county’s best year-round.

The requirements are simple to join.

“We’ll take any kid that has a passion to learn the game of basketball,” said Brown, a former Division I basketball player at Texas A&M. “Obviously, our more advanced teams play more competitive basketball. But we give those kids who are just getting introduced something to strive for.”

Many area basketball fans may be familiar with Brown, who also coached at the University of San Diego for four seasons prior to taking over as the director of the Hoopers.

Brown now coaches the JV team at La Jolla High, and he has seen first hand what having a youth basketball program can do for the high school teams.

“There’s definitely a correlation with the success with what the high school program and what we’ve done here with club basketball,” Brown said.

Along with Brown, there are several knowledgeable staff members who help coach the program including Jackson Jones, Danny Brown and Mike Riccutti.

“Everyone has a background in basketball, but more importantly, they definitely have a passion for instructing kids and trying to make a difference in kids’ lives at this age,” Brown said.

Having a coaching staff with Division I credentials is a boon for the program and the youngsters involved.

“There are a lot of good coaches that have helped with the ball handling and the skills,” said Conor Dalton, a 10-year-old on the fifth-grade championship team. “They are really good basketball players and we look up to them because they are really good role models.”

And being a role model may be more important to Brown than winning games.

“This allowed me to spend time with kids, which is my passion,” Brown said. “It gives my fix, basketball-wise. I love doing this.”

Interested in signing up? The new season starts on March 18. Contact the Hoopers at tbball32@yahoo.com.