Mustangs patiently await Shootaway Gun 8000

Community basketball coach sets his eyes on groundbreaking machine

Awaiting the arrival of Hope Secondary's new Shootaway Gun 8000 are (front: left to right) Rachel Utz

It’s hard to meet your fundraising target when the goalposts keep moving farther away.

In 2014, community basketball coach, Jeff Kuhn set his sights on a device that would help boost players’ shooting accuracy and he started getting local donations to make the purchase. Hope Secondary Mustangs also took part in raising the funds.

“The final cost, including delivery, was $5,795,“ said Kuhn on Monday.

That was in American dollars, though. The Loonie had dropped about 20¢ in exchange value during the fund-raising process, meaning an extra basketball season went by without the new machine, called the Shootaway Gun 8000.

In the last few months some big donations came in to fill the funding gap, said Kuhn. “Envision Credit Union kicked in $1,500 and Anne and Ray Loewen put down $1,500 and challenged a group of businessmen to match it. The Hope Eagles and Hope Secondary parent advisory committee also contributed.”

Donors included Hope Brewing, Blue Moose Coffee House, Valley Helicopters and Hope Drive In, as well as Teresa Williams, Don Wiens and Kent McKinnon. The $8300 (Cdn) machine was shipped from Sandusky, Ohio and had made it as far as Burnaby by last Friday. There was a good chance the Shootaway would be delivered in time for Monday’s photo session, but it was delayed.

In lieu of a live demonstration, Kuhn enthusiastically described its key features. You can also see the machine on the internet at shootaway.com.

“It uses your existing backboard and basket, as long as you have a place to plug it in,” said Kuhn. “It takes about 30 seconds to set up or take down and holds up to six balls at a time.”

Shots that hit the basket — or backboard, at least — are caught in the catch-net and recycled through the machine. A second player could help retrieve stray balls and feed them into the hopper. The netting blocks a straight path to the basket, forcing shooters to put an appropriate arc on their shot. “You can program it to pass a ball in intervals of one second to 10 seconds or even more — and it’ll pass to you at up to 15 places on the floor,” said Kuhn. “You can even tell it to keep passing to one spot until you sink a certain number of shots, before it passes to a new spot.

“I saw it at Agassiz in the fall of 2014 and I’d seen how their shooting had improved — and I thought ‘Why couldn’t we do that?” added Kuhn. “Ours will be the exact same model that Agassiz has. It’s the top model that even universities use. All it’s missing is a chip that lets you track your shooting on-line. Ours can keep track of your shooting percentage and give you a printout.”

The device will be officially unveiled in the high school gym on Thursday, March 17, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

“People can drop by and try it out,” said Kuhn. “Envision’s manager has challenged us to a shoot-off with students. Every shot that goes in will raise money for the credit union’s Full Cupboard food bank program.”

Parents are welcome to drop off their Steve Nash Youth Basketball registration forms on that night. Forms can also be picked up and dropped off at local elementary schools until Friday, Mar. 18, the last day before the two-week spring break. They can also be accessed through the group’s Facebook page at Hope-snyb.

“Our league starts on Apr. 6 and we’ll have practices and games on Wednesday and Thursday nights,” said Kuhn. “It’s for boys and girls in grades 4 to 7 and $60 gets you a ball, a jersey and seven practices and eight games. It’s our fourth year and it’s still the same price.

“Scholarships are available for those who can’t afford it,” added Kuhn. “We sponsored three kids last year — and they’re already registered for this year and paying. That’s good to see.

“Last year there were 42 kids. Two boys teams and two girls teams, though there were fewer girls than in previous years. I hope to have more back this year.

“Most of our coaches are returning,” he added. “We’ve got a curriculum to follow, on footwork, passing, dribbling and shooting. The idea is to establish the fundamentals at an early age — and make it fun. They keep coming if we keep it fun!”