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Basketball in quarantine: Local scout and coach offer free evaluation service

Local scout Devin Ugland poses in his Fountain Valley office. The 32-year-old provides free feedback and evaluations to prep basketball players during the coronavirus pandemic.
Local scout Devin Ugland poses in his Fountain Valley office. The 32-year-old provides free feedback and evaluations to prep basketball players during the coronavirus pandemic.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

The high school basketball season had mostly ended by the time that the coronavirus pandemic started causing closures in mid-March.

That doesn’t mean that serious players were content to sit at home until December, however. The AAU season immediately follows, providing players the opportunity to be noticed by college coaches, but COVID-19 changed all that.

Basketball scout Devin Ugland, a Fountain Valley resident who launched his Hoops By Ugland scouting service in 2015 and works full-time for Ballislife.com, said he wanted to do something to help kids. They were losing opportunities to be seen, as well as opportunities to be in the gym working with their high school or club team.

“With the COVID-19, most school districts and gyms are shut down,” said Ugland, 32, who has written for the Daily Pilot. “It’s hard to get the ability to find some gym time that’s safe. I was thinking if they can’t be seen by college coaches, why can’t I watch their film and provide feedback?”

Ugland, who played at Marina High School before graduating in 2006 and is well-known in the local prep basketball community, provides the written feedback. His friend, A.J. Gasporra, the Fountain Valley High boys’ basketball assistant coach, provides visual feedback.

Gasporra, 31, played college ball at Citrus College, the University of Texas at San Antonio, Concordia University and Cal State San Marcos, before playing professionally in Mexico for four years. He also trains some players privately and produces workout videos, which are kept in a Dropbox.

“I asked if he might be able to include his Dropbox link into my evaluations, so that the kids who I send evaluations to are able to access those training tools,” Ugland said. “Most of them are something that they can do from home or do from the park, if they have a rim nearby.”

A.J. Gasporra is the assistant boys' basketball coach at Fountain Valley High.
(Courtesy of Devin Ugland)

A free evaluation service was born in late April. Interested boys’ or girls’ basketball players are asked to email Ugland at devin@ballislife.com videos of their games, as well as details including their full name, high school, class, height, position and uniform number.

He provides a bulleted checklist of strengths and weaknesses to the player, while Gasporra provides training videos that can be used to improve on those weaknesses.

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Ugland said nearly 50 prep basketball players have used the service, including Marina sophomore guard Robert Aguirre and Fountain Valley sophomore guard Roddie Anderson locally. He also has provided feedback for players from Washington, Arkansas and Florida.

“It’s coast to coast, and it’s been good to see,” he said. “I didn’t expect it to have that kind of reach.”

Aguirre said he appreciated the chance to know what he needs to work on, areas that according to Ugland include handling the ball under pressure and having a faster first step.

“I thought it was a really good opportunity,” Aguirre said. “I have my coaches and my dad that have seen me play but obviously have some bias toward me. It’s always nice to get a second opinion and see whatever people think I can work on, and what I’m good at. I can kind of see where I’m at, compared to other people.

“There’s a lot of tournaments that could be going on, where college coaches could be at. [Ugland has] kind of given kids the opportunity to get their name out there.”

Anderson is fresh off helping Fountain Valley reach the CIF Southern Section semifinals for the first time in program history. He was a second-team Daily Pilot Boys’ Basketball Dream Team selection.

“It’s good,” he said of the service. “I’m always willing to get feedback on my game. I’m just going to get better from it, so I really appreciate it.”

Fountain Valley's Roddie Anderson (10), shown driving to the basket against Burbank Providence on March 7, has used the evaluation of Devin Ugland and A.J. Gasporra during the coronavirus pandemic.
Fountain Valley’s Roddie Anderson (10), shown driving to the basket against Burbank Providence on March 7, has used the evaluation of Devin Ugland and A.J. Gasporra during the coronavirus pandemic.
(Miguel Vasconcellos)

Ugland said he plans to continue to offer the service for the foreseeable future, with summer basketball schedules currently unknown due to COVID-19. Ugland runs his Hoops By Ugland Skills Summit camp each August, but he’s not sure if that will be possible this year.

“As far as club or high school basketball this summer, I don’t know,” he said. “It’s going to be a long, confusing process … Kids can’t play in masks, you know what I mean? I’ve worn a mask to take my dog for a walk, and it’s hard to breathe in a regular mask, let alone playing in an N95 mask, which is the safest mask available.”

The Orange County Health Care Agency reported a record 10 deaths from COVID-19 on Wednesday, with nursing home residents making up most of the additional fatalities.

Still, he said the evaluation service has given him the opportunity to see players who might otherwise be off his radar.

When basketball returns to gyms, Ugland and Gasporra will be there and so will their apprentices with feedback in mind.

“It’s easy to make excuses with the situation that we’re in,” Gasporra said. “I’m trying to get the kids to be as productive as possible during these times. When it’s all said and done and this [coronavirus pandemic] is over with, no one’s going to care that you couldn’t do anything now. College coaches aren’t going to care. They’re going to see what you were doing when everybody was at home.”

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