Hoop essentials

The sounds of basketballs being dribbled and sneakers squeaking on hardwood floor are still resounding outside of La Cañada High's north gym. The only difference is those who are making the noises are first- through eighth-graders, not high school athletes.

It is the 25th year Tom Hofman is coaching the Spartans boys' basketball team, and the 25th year he is putting on the Spartans Basketball Summer Camp for youth players.

"We try to teach them early, developmental basketball skills," Hofman said. "We're not trying to make them into Michael Jordan; we are just trying to teach them things here they can draw upon if they want to pursue basketball in the future."

Camp members are taught the fundamentals of ball-handling, footwork, defense, teamwork and basic shooting techniques. The camp includes scrimmages, skill competitions and drills to help prepare them for high school and beyond.

Adam Malik, a 2007 La Cañada graduate whom Hofman calls one of the best Spartan basketball players of all time, said the drills done at the camp are the same performed in high school and colleges. Malik will be a junior on the UC Davis men's basketball team.

"These are very simple drills, but they are extremely important," Malik said. "Everyone needs to do them. Honestly, everything revolves around fundamentals at any level."

Hofman said he believes the reason the camp has succeeded for so long is because of the lighthearted atmosphere.

"We emphasize fun here," Hofman said. "We aren't one of those extremely serious camps, but there are a lot of good counselors for the kids as well."

Malik agrees with Hofman. This is his fourth year helping out at the camp, and he believes the appeal is the laid-back yet competitive nature of it.

"It's a competitive atmosphere, but at the same time no one loses," Malik said. "You play to win, and it's fun if you do, but you never walk away feeling like a loser."

Campers not only learn from Hofman, but from several of his current and past players at La Cañada, like Malik. The counselors mentor and give advice to camp members in order to help them improve their game. Hofman said one of his favorite parts of the camp is watching returning campers who come back year after year, and seeing their development.

"You can always tell who the returners are," Hofman said.

Twelve-year-old Grant Arthur and 13-year-old Desi Perez are two of those returners. They are both seventh-graders who have been attending Hofman's basketball camp for six years.

"Hofman knows a lot about the sport," Perez said. "It's an honor to learn from him."

Arthur and Perez said they hope to play basketball in high school.

"I definitely want to play for Coach Hofman," Arthur said.

Arthur said his favorite part about the camp is competing and working with the counselors, along with learning from them and their experiences.

"What a lot of players lack at this level are fundamentals," Malik said. "Coach Hofman teaches fundamentals to all his players. This camp gives kids a good base of fundamentals; it's just an all-around good development."

This week, the camp is taking a break, but it will resume again Monday. It runs from 1 to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Those interested can call Hofman at (626) 375-7477. Players can also show up and pay $190 at the door.

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