Basketball has been an important part of Yash Zandiyeh’s life for as long as he can remember.
When Zandiyeh was five years old and living in Tsawwassen, he enrolled in former Harlem Globetrotter Mel Davis’ basketball program.
“My sister, who is three years older than me, she was in the program. And I’m literally sitting there and he’s like, ‘Hey, do want to come play with us?’” he said. “From there I basically just stuck with Mel until I was like 12 or 13 years old.”
Zandiyeh played basketball for Vancouver’s Magee Secondary, graduating in 2002. At 18, he went on to coach Night Hoops (a program for at-risk youth aged 13-18 in Vancouver and Burnaby) for five years, then refereed there for another six after that. For the past seven years he’s been coaching basketball at Vancouver’s Killarney Secondary.
Five years ago, Zandiyeh started BC Hoop Scoop on Twitter as means of promoting and supporting the province’s basketball community. Since then it’s expanded to other social media channels and a website.
“There was like a three or four year period where literally 10 out of 12 months it was just basketball,” Zandiyeh said. “Like, I’d coach, go watch a game, on weekends I’d be at tournaments, I’d coach club in the spring, in the summer I’d go watch club teams play.
“So that’s basketball for me.”
Now he’s looking to take it a step further and help the hoops community give back by organizing the first annual BC Hoops Shoe Drive, on now through Jan. 13.
At a number of Lower Mainland high schools and tournaments, players, coaches and fans can drop off their old, clean shoes to be donated to Shoe Bank Canada, a Kelowna-based charity that provides footwear to the working poor and homeless both at home and abroad.
“It’s not just basketball shoes, [it can be] casual shoes, it can be whatever,” he said.
After the last shoes are collected, Zandiyeh will be bringing all that donated footwear to the Shoe Warehouse in Ladner, who will handle getting the haul up to the Shoe Bank’s headquarters in Kelowna.
Zandiyeh got the idea for the shoe drive after a friend of his collected more than 250 pairs of shoes for Covenant House in Vancouver last spring.
“Once he did that I was like, ‘You know what? That’s kind of a cool idea,’” he said. “I realized that I think it had been a very, very long time since, at least within the basketball community, we had some type of shoe drive or any type of initiative like that that really gives back.”
Using the contacts he had developed both as a coach and through BC Hoop Scoop, Zandiyeh reached out to several area high schools to ask if they’d be willing to putting aside those rivalries and come together for a good cause.
“Being politically correct, there is some animosity in the basketball community,” he said. “Let’s just forget about all that stuff and let’s just do something that’s positive and good and grow.”
Zandiyeh said the community has grown by leaps and bounds in the last decade or two, but with that has come increased pressure on both the players and their parents.
“If you look at basketball 15, 20 years ago, there were maybe two or three programs. Now, it’s just a money pit. Parents are paying all this money for their kids to go train, play club, all of that stuff,” he said.
“So … how do we shift away from all that stuff? [Well], not shift away from it, but just do something that’s honestly, as clichéed as it sounds, out of the goodness of our hearts, and gives back to people.”
Anyone looking to donate to the BC Hoops Shoe Drive can find donation bins at the following locations/events:
• Dec. 7-9: G.W. Graham Middle-Secondary (Chilliwack)
• Dec. 7-9: Tsumura Basketball Invitational (boys) at the Langley Events Centre
• Dec. 8-9: Sands Secondary (North Delta)
• Dec. 14-16: Tsumura Basketball Invitational (girls) at the Langley Events Centre
• Dec. 15-16: G.W. Graham Middle-Secondary (Chilliwack)
• Dec. 19-21: McDonalds VPD Winter Invitational, at Gladstone Secondary and Windermere Secondary (Vancouver)
• Jan. 10-12: Churchill Secondary (Vancouver)
• Jan. 10-13: St. Thomas More Collegiate (Burnaby)
• Jan. 10-13: Sands Secondary (North Delta)
David Thompson Secondary in Vancouver will also be hosting a donation bin for the duration of the shoe drive.