The second annual San Diego Sneaks Summer Classic basketball tournament kicked off in grand fashion at the La Jolla Recreation Center just after Independence Day on Saturday, July 6, 2019 — bigger and better than its inaugural event last year.
Well over 100 fans and more than 100 players turned out for the competition, with 16 teams playing in this year’s Classic — up from 12 teams last year.
The event was co-founded — and co-organized — by two La Jolla High graduates (both class of 2013) Sawsun Khodapanah and Tyler Youngs. The two friends initially brainstormed the concept last year to keep a neighborhood tradition alive.
“We used to play at 4 o’clock every day after school and during the summer,” Youngs told La Jolla Light. “We wanted to get some La Jolla Rec basketball culture back in the community.”
Added Khodapanah: “We definitely had the idea and the vision for it to be a long-term thing and continue building it. We’ve put in a lot of work, so hopefully, it’s much better for people to enjoy this year.”
The dynamic duo started planning the event in January, incorporating some clear lessons learned from last year’s tournament. Both Khodapanah and Youngs don’t hesitate to chime in on the biggest lesson — the need to add referees and start calling fouls in the playoff games. And the refs were there this year for those critical elimination rounds.
The sign-up process was still mostly word-of-mouth.
“The hardest part about it and the most fun part about it is texting every single guy, calling every single guy, and saying ‘Hey, get your five together, get your five together,’ ” Youngs said. “And as hard as it is to get 16 teams signed up, it’s just as hard for the guys we’re calling to get 5 or 6 or 7 more guys to sign up. So there’s a little bit of responsibility on both ends, but that’s what makes it fun — when it all comes together and all that hard work really pays off.”
This year’s event included the advent of some local vendors, live DJ music, a taco stand, and much-appreciated cloud cover to keep the temperature down for most of the play. Khodapanah’s company, The San Diego Sneaks, remained the event sponsor this year — displaying shoes and apparel for sale near the registration table.
Khodapanoh says his company has significantly evolved since last year’s event: “Last year, we were just selling sneakers and some boutique clothing and we made the T-shirts for the participants. People seemed to like them and from that, I took the momentum and started making more clothing. So in this past year, I put a lot of energy into building the company. So now, it’s more like a full-blown brand that I’m trying to continue growing. Last year, it was more like a little sneaker store. So it’s definitely grown a lot.”
Local vendor Jimmy Meyerott set up shop on the sidelines, selling his personal brand of popcorn called Party Pop.
“I started Party Pop two years ago,” he said. “It’s all homemade popcorn — I use organic kernels, coconut oil, and I make it fresh every single day.” Meyerott is also a La Jolla High grad (Class of 2011) and said he was happy for the opportunity to showcase his relatively new business and reconnect with old classmates.
“Where else would you want to be but La Jolla Rec Center with a lot of good local La Jolla people? It’s a great vibe, it’s family friendly and I’m very happy to be here,” he said.
Nick Hammel, varsity player from LJHS class of 2017, said he was pumped to be on the outdoor court again with his b-ball buddies, whether on his team or competing against another one. “It’s just a lot of fun to come out here and play with the community,” he explained. “I’ve seen a lot of guys I haven’t seen in a long time. It’s nice to come out and compete with them.”
Charlie Gal, another LJHS varsity player who just finished his first year of college, commented: “It’s a chance to get out, play some basketball, and see a lot of old friends. There are definitely some older guys here that still have some run in them left. It’s good to see a lot of people I haven’t seen since I left for college or older guys I haven’t played with in a couple of years.”
Behzad Hashemi — a varsity player who just graduated from La Jolla High — said this was his first year playing in the tournament. “I haven’t really played any basketball since the season ended,” he shared, “and I miss the game, I miss the guys, and I wanted to come out. I’m a little out of shape, but it was really fun playing with the guys again.”
The tournament winners turned out to be “The 5 O’Clock Bandits,” who each received customized basketballs as the grand prize. Dozens of family members, friends, and La Jolla residents turned out for the event, which promises to be even bigger next year.
— For information about future Sneaks Summer Classic basketball tournaments, visit sandiegosneaks.com/pages/summer-classic