Youth keep busy with Sierra Basketball Academy
Kings Beach – Basketballs fly all over the gym. Ten girls are passing, dribbling and shooting while engaging in 10 separate conversations. They’re warming up for their afternoon practice session in the Sierra Basketball Academy at Kings Beach Elementary School.The academy is open to Tahoe Truckee area middle school age boys and girls, and may be opening to older and younger players soon.”I like it, it’s fun. It teaches a lot,” Amy Killett, 12, of Carnelian Bay said about the academy. She began playing basketball in the fourth grade in the Tahoe City Parks and Recreation program and will be trying out for the seventh-grade team at North Tahoe Middle School Team this fall.Emily Adams, 12, of Truckee has been playing basketball since the fifth grade, and her favorite position is point guard.”This is my second session, I played last year with [the Sierra Basketball Academy]. I’ve noticed a difference in how I play,” she said.The year-round academy may be different than most.”It’s simple to make the team. No one is ever turned down on ability. There are no tryouts. To earn your uniform the players have to get along with people; there’s no fighting, just love and support for one another,” David Hibbett, head coach and owner of the Sierra Basketball Academy explained while the girls team warmed up.It’s hard to imagine some of the young players’ shots even reaching the backboard. On the long shots they strain with every ounce of energy into a stutter of a jump shot, which at the high point of the arc just barely reaches the rim of the basket. But like big birds with little wings that miraculously fly, those long shots swish through the hoops.”If there’s a weak link we don’t dismiss them, we work with them. And like other sports in general, we help to build discipline and self-esteem, the ability to make good decisions, smart decisions and teamwork,” Hibbett said.The academy invites special guests to give short lectures to the participants, such as ex-NBA player Matt Williams of the Golden State Warriors, who runs the Jam On It basketball academy in Reno, and Edgar Jones, also a former NBA player, who works with youth groups. They will be making a presentation to the current session participants, Hibbett said.The Sierra Basketball Academy partners with the Boys & Girls Club to make the program available to youth from the North Shore and Truckee area. Scholarships are available to help pay for the sessions, which range from $100 to $150 per session.Hibbett has had as many as six teams training in a six-week session.”Right now we have three teams in this session. There’s other sports going on and people are on vacation. When school basketball season is going we don’t have a session for the girls. Right now there’s more girls than boys because there are other sports for boys,” he said.The academy is meant to be a stepping stone or building block for the young players in helping them prepare for the school teams. As many as 50 percent of the players have had trouble on their school teams or have been cut, he said.”They all make progress. The favorite part of my job is seeing the improvement: more self-esteem, better grades and even walking with more confidence,” Hibbett said.”This is like a ministry for me. It’s a different idea of a way to help youth, through basketball,” he said.Hibbett grew up playing basketball. He was a star high-school player and played at Kent State University. He has coached youth teams in Reno and Tahoe for six years. One of his former teams is currently playing at the Junior Olympics.Basketball helped Hibbett through some troubling times when he was younger.”The neat thing is to see where I am now compared to where I started. I want to do the same for other kids … to give back to the kids is the biggest highlight for me,” he said.
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As seniors from North Tahoe collected diplomas this week, a group of Lakers continued another local tradition — capturing first place at the boys’ regional golf championship.