Sharp shooter fires up the courts

Basketball numbers are down in basketball registration, but new initiatives are in place to bring more players.

While Tyler Feser (far left) smiles at bystanders

“It’s a great problem to have, with so many activities in town for kids to do,” said Hope’s Steve Nash Basketball program coordinator, Jeff Kuhn.

The problem is that basketball registration numbers are down this spring, notably in the girls’ league, which is off by eight from last year.

“The boys are up by three or four. We have 25 of them, from grade 4 to 7 — but we only have 13 girls,” said Kuhn, before heading over to Hope Secondary gym for Monday’s game night. They also meet on Thursday’s, for practice sessions.

Money shouldn’t have been a concern for most, as $60 was the fee for first-time registrants and those who played last year got a $20 reduction. As well, four “full-ride” scholarships were available, thanks to the generosity of local residents who have called Kuhn to offer their financial support.

“We went through local principals to identify kids that might like to play, but could use a scholarship,” explained Kuhn. Registrants get a basketball jersey, a basketball and a wristband, as well as the nine practices and seven games.”

Kuhn was initially surprised by the weak turnout.

“I was initially shocked when I saw there were only nine girls signed up — but I did some talking around town and we got it up to 13.

With five girls on the floor for each team, there aren’t many subs, so they get pretty tired,” said Kuhn, who is also the coach of the senior Mustang girls, many of whom help with coaching the kids. Monday is a busy night, with karate and dance also going on. Jasmin Kang goes to karate until 7 p.m., then she’s here by 7:02 p.m. She makes it work, as do some girls who dance.”

They’ve been doing their program in the spring but not many others do.

“Most are in the fall, so I’ll be talking to my leaders about maybe doing it here in the fall, starting this year,” said Kuhn, who plans to meet with other organizations in Hope to figure out the best nights for the program, to avoid clashes.

“It makes it harder for registration, as schools aren’t open during the summer, to help in promotion,” said Kuhn. “We could get some pre-registration done before school lets out.”

One of the motivations for starting the program three years ago was to boost the basic skills of players before they reach competitive high school basketball.

There won’t be much of a lift to the grade 8 teams next year, as there are only three grade 7’s in the Steve Nash league this coming spring.

What will help both programs, said Kuhn, is the purchase of a Shootaway 8000 shooting machine, which would be housed at HSS and would be available for Steve Nash, phys-ed and high school team use.

You can see a demonstration of the machine at shootaway.com. It’s a computerized ball-passing machine that is parked under a basket, with netting to catch shots — or misses. Balls are recycled to shooters and the accuracy is recorded.

“You can set it to throw to 16 different positions and you can set the amount of time between passes,” said Kuhn.

“Agassiz has one and it has totally transformed the shooting skills of a couple of their girls. It’s a real motivator for kids,” he said.

It costs about $8,000, because of the U.S. exchange rate — and we’ve raised right around $6,000.” Kuhn aspires to have the machine for the upcoming fall season.

Anyone who can help out with funding the project is encouraged to contact the coach at 604-869-6492, or by e-mail at jeff@gbchope.com .