Yucaipa High School basketball team spokesman Luke Spoelstra announced that its coaching staff will be organizing a boys travel team. The newly formed Yucaipa Basketball Academy hopes to begin play in late January. It will be geared for those in middle school, however could be expanded to those in fifth and sixth grades. It will not be under the jurisdiction of YHS; instead it will be governed by the Amateur Athletic Union and USA Basketball.
Boys basketball in Yucaipa has never maintained a lasting travel-club team, something that a high school must have if it hopes to excel at the prep level. “The goal of the academy is to build a skill set at an early age and by the time they get to YHS, they understand the game of basketball from a strategy standpoint,” stated Spoelstra. “We believe this will help us compete at the highest level at Yucaipa.” He said the Academy will not conflict with Yucaipa Youth Basketball recreational leagues.
Current YHS basketball players Blake Rodriguez and Mitchell Carpenter have played travel ball in the past. Carpenter played for Redlands-based Inland Empire United and Rodriguez played as an eighth-grader for the defunct Yucaipa Excel.
“Yucaipa has had travel teams in the past but never had one on a consistent basis,” said Rodriguez. “They are usually run by parents and once their kid graduates the team disappears.”
Rodriguez and Carpenter agreed that travel ball is played at a higher level than high school basketball and gives the participants a huge advantage over those who don’t play. Spoelstra indicated that a player’s financial standing should not be an issue; instead his skill and determination are the criteria. As Yucaipa’s director of basketball operations, Spoelstra said the financial details of the Yucaipa Basketball Academy are still in the works.
Rodriguez and Carpenter agreed that it takes funds to play at the elite travel ball level, yet agreed further that having a good work ethic can compensate.
“If you want to play, just show up,” said Carpenter. “If you are good enough and want to play, someone will help you, maybe someone’s parents,” added Rodriguez. Spoesltra did say that some form of scholarship could become available.
“Such a travel team would be a tremendous benefit,” said YHS basketball coach James Simpson. “It would encourage young talent, allowing them to improve in a structional setting while learning our system.”
So far, plans call for play exclusively in high level tournaments in Orange and Los Angeles Counties. Further plans call for summer basketball camps for grades first through eighth and clinics geared for prospective coaches for Yucaipa Youth Basketball. For information: Yucaipabasketball@gmail.com or text 213-0198.