Hillsboro High School head boys’ basketball coach Darrel Knoll understands the importance of teaching young basketball players good habits.
He said good fundamentals, especially offensively, are harder to teach as players get older, which is why JAM was developed.
“As I see it, as the guys get into high school, they have a better feel for how to dribble, how to pass, being strong with the ball, things like that,” he said. “The main goal is to help players enjoy the game of basketball, have some knowledge of it, and learn to appreciate the game, whether they end up playing later on or not.”
JAM has run Saturday mornings for students from kindergarten through sixth grades for longer than the 26 years Knoll has been a part of it.
Knoll said he sees the most growth from the players that participate in the program each year, while also playing in Saturday leagues.
“The ones who really love the game, they grow tremendously,” he said. “We’re trying to show them fundamentally how to do it, then keep pushing the idea that if you learn it here, go out and work on it in your driveway.”
Matt Beavers, who has a first-grade son participating in the program, said he sees the improvements even after one year.
“Mainly for him it’s just his confidence,” Beavers said. “It helps his fundamentals big time.”
Along with Knoll, other local coaches, parents, and high school players help teach drills. Girls’ coach Nathan Hiebert and members of the Lady Trojans help the younger girl players.
Players participate in stations teaching passing, dribbling, shooting, rebounding, and defensive positioning. The ends of sessions are usually a time to scrimmage.
“I play the point guard, so I work with a lot of the ball-handling,” Hillsboro guard Brett Weinbrenner said. “A lot of them listen pretty well, so we do what we can to help them play to the best of their abilities.”
Weinbrenner also said he liked seeing the kids put something they learned into a game situation.
“Once you get a connection with someone it’s fun to see how they start to look up to you once you start talking to them more,” he said.