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Cougar Cubs Learn Skills
Seven-year-old Lykn DaSilva lines up a shot during the skills portion of Saturdays Cub Basketball in Escalon, with his teammates standing in line behind awaiting their turn. Marg Jackson/The Times

Saturdays are pretty busy in Escalon, what with all the dribbling, passing and shooting going on.

An estimated 165 youngsters, from ages seven to 14, boys and girls, are learning the skills required to play basketball, as the Escalon High School basketball programs have taken over running the Cub Basketball program.

“It is going really well,” said EHS varsity boys basketball head coach Martin Louro of the youth sports effort. “We focus on skills development and are looking to create a little excitement about basketball.”

After having the program run by the city rec department for several years, Louro put together a proposal to have the school take it back, getting the high school athletes involved in helping coach the younger students. High school coaches also assist, running drills and refereeing games each week.

“January 3 and 10 were the first two Saturdays, those were just clinics, no games, we spent those days like it was a camp, going through drills and then we divided the kids up into teams, based on the skill levels.”

Morning sessions are for those in the 7- to 9-year-old age group, while Saturday afternoons are for the 10- to 14-year-olds. Louro said there are four girls teams in each group, six teams in the boys 10 to 14 and 10 boys teams in the 7 to 9 group.

Players on the boys teams from the high school, from freshman through varsity, work with the boys while the girls basketball players work with the girls teams. Most of the teams have seven players, and all get equal opportunity to play in the games.

“We use both El Portal and the high school,” Louro said of putting on the Cub hoops program. Each Saturday session runs three hours, 9 a.m. to noon for the younger kids and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. for the older ones.

“We just finished our third week of games, we have three more weeks to go,” Louro said.

Each Saturday session starts out with some skill drills, then the teams get to play games, with each game another opportunity for coaching about specific game situations.

“Basically they come in the first hour, we review a lot of the drills we did, fundamentals, really focusing on a couple of basic things,” Louro said. “Basics such as you can’t run with the ball, you have to dribble, but with one hand, not two.”

Rules of the game are covered as well and Louro said they work with the young players on making sure they spread out, both offensively and defensively.

“We want them to spread the floor, not play bunch ball,” he noted. “We’re coming along, I see kids improving, having fun.”

Louro said he also has enjoyed watching the high school players interact with the younger basketball enthusiasts and said they do get community service credit for the volunteerism, which helps when they apply for scholarships.

“The idea behind it is to create a little bit of excitement, parents are talking now on Saturdays, about how exciting our game was, sometimes they will come to a high school game because their child’s coach is playing, that helps get these kids interested in the sport,” Louro said.

The Cub Hoops program runs for eight weeks total.

“It takes a tremendous amount of time,” Louro said, with coaches booked for a full Saturday of service each week. “But I think overall it’s good for the town, the city, the school and, in the long run, for Escalon basketball.”