Organized amateur basketball is on its way to Miami Gardens.
The City Council approved a $5,000 donation to the Hoop Phi Hoop basketball league last month and the group will host a basketball tournament this weekend at the Betty T. Ferguson Recreational Complex.
Hoop Phi Hoop, which travels across the country competing in the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU), wants to bring an organized basketball structure to Miami Gardens and develop teams that will give discipline to players and keep them from criminal activity.
James Lee, a former player and coach, started the program in California and expanded it to Atlanta before moving down to South Florida. Locally, he’s mostly operated in Broward County but has spent the past few years developing the team in Miami-Dade.
Lee said that because amateur football is such a large part of sports culture in Florida, he wanted to give young basketball players a platform to show their abilities.
“When I came here, I decided to do basketball because it’s a football state,” Lee said. “A lot of kids don’t have an opportunity to play basketball year round and be seen by college coaches to help them get scholarships.”
He said the program differs from normal high school teams because players travel across the country and take tours of local colleges in the cities they visit.
“They don’t have to go to the NBA, but at least they’ll have an opportunity to go to college and see the college life,” Lee said.
Another difference, Lee said, is that Hoop Phi Hoop emphasizes leadership skill development and fundamentals more than fielding a dominant team.
“A lot of the coaches are so keen on winning instead of teaching the kids of the fundamentals of the game,” Lee said.
The program operates a basketball clinic twice a week and registration costs $175 a month, with a $25 registration fee. Lee said that beyond the registration costs the program stays afloat thanks to donations and sponsorships