Ball back in kids' court

Youth basketball is back in Costa Mesa.

Last year it didn't seem youth basketball had much of a chance in the city. The Costa Mesa Parks & Recreation youth basketball program was eliminated in last year's budget. Mike Brandenburger, the Costa Mesa parks' assistant recreation supervisor, said he saw the hoops program make it all the way to June.

But for the next six months the city was without a youth basketball program. Plans for a program didn't seem likely.

However, Troy Hall saw a need and wanted to help bring back basketball to the kids.

Hall, a former Corona del Mar High boys' basketball assistant coach, is in charge of Aim High Hoops, a unique basketball club that's based in Newport Coast.

I say unique because the club doesn't always go after all the top ballers. Instead, Hall and his staff at Aim High want to develop athletes. Even if the kids aren't too athletic, they want them to learn the fundamentals, acquire great habits and aim high.

Hall was able to partner Aim High with the city of Costa Mesa. Last month, they began a six-week youth basketball program that appears to be very promising for the future.

Hall said he saw 105 young players show up on the opening day of practice.

Brandenburger was pleased with the turnout, especially because he didn't think that many people knew about the return of hoops.

Brandenburger knows youth basketball is vital to the city's park and rec. Three years ago he said he saw the program at its height when there were roughly 420 kids and 42 teams, back when Brian Beerbower was spearheading youth basketball in the town.

Beerbower worked on Estancia's coaching staff. Yes, youth hoops are important to the local high schools, too.

Estancia High boys' basketball coach Agustin Heredia thinks it's wonderful that the city's youth hoops program is back, even in a small way for now.

Heredia, who played at Estancia, is also doing his part to help local young athletes. He's putting on a youth basketball camp at the high school that started Monday.

Helping teach the game to the kids will only help for the future, he believes.

"The kids we have coming in [to high school] are so far behind in basketball, compared to the kids that go into CdM, or other schools," Heredia said. "Not only in skills, but in numbers. They have probably 25 kids coming out for freshman basketball. I'm lucky if I have 12."

Costa Mesa boys' basketball coach Bryan Rice also says freshmen are raw when they come out.

Rice is in full support of the youth program. He wants to continue to improve the basketball program at his alma mater, and he knows building interest in the youth will only help.

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