With basketball season under way at the high school, collegiate and professional levels, some potential future players at each level might be getting their start in the Biddy Basketball program at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Santa Monica.
Biddy Basketball, which includes boys and girls seven to 13 years old, is about to begin its 51st season at the Santa Monica Boys & Girls Club main branch, 1238 Lincoln Blvd., Santa Monica.
Tryouts for each of three age divisions were held throughout November to select the players for each of the teams this season, which starts the second week of January.
Players seven and eight years old compete in the ACC division of the league, nine-and-ten-year-old players are in the PAC 10 division, and players ten to 13 are in the NBA division.
The Biddy Basketball program is considered the oldest and largest of the Santa Monica Boys & Girls Clubs’ athletic programs, said Brandon LaBrie, Boys & Girls Clubs of Santa Monica athletic director.
More than 250 boys and girls compete on 25 teams each year, with more than 40 coaches volunteering to offer their basketball knowledge to the aspiring youths.
Biddy Basketball has become not only a popular yearly function for the club, but a tradition in its half a century of existence, LaBrie said.
“This is home to a lot of kids; it’s home to me,” said LaBrie, who also participated in the Biddy program as a club member from 1978 to 1983.
There are many longtime coaches who have been volunteering at the club for over 20 years, as well as “generations of families” that have taken part in the Biddy League, he said.
LaBrie credits the volunteer coaches with being a key factor in the program’s success, saying they are dedicated and focused on teaching fundamentals.
“They really teach the game of basketball,” he said.
Over the years, players have gone on to excel at the high school and collegiate basketball level, and some have even gone on to play professionally. Current NBA players Austin Croshere of the Dallas Mavericks and Baron Davis of the Golden State Warriors are both former players in the Biddy program, LaBrie said.
While the Santa Monica Boys & Girls Club program can help shape future stars, it also aims to teach youths valuable lessons beyond just basketball, such as teamwork, leadership and sportsmanship, he said.
“It’s all about self esteem, character building and positive reinforcement,” LaBrie said. “We’re finding a means through basketball to teach them also about life skills.”
By participating in the program, the young athletes can learn how to be more responsible and accountable, and to have a strong work ethic — skills they will be able to carry on to the high school level and beyond, he said.
“We want these kids to learn the game and have fun with it,” LaBrie said.
It is also a chance for them to develop better social skills, as they are playing with youths from a wide range of backgrounds, he said.
The boys and girls in the league are not just from one school or community but from “all walks of life,” he said.
The young athletes enjoy the opportunity to be able to play with their friends, but they also relish the chance to compete against each other on the court, he said.
“They love that competitiveness,” LaBrie said.
One athlete who has emerged as one of the leaders in the Biddy program is 12-year-old London Perrantes, who plays point guard on an NBA division team.
Perrantes said he has played in the club league since the age of seven, and now he and the other “veterans” of the league are looking to help out the younger players.
Perrantes, who is nicknamed “The General” on the court, is hoping the Biddy program will be a step toward future playing opportunities.
“I love playing the game,” Perrantes said. “I would love to go on to college and the NBA.”
Ten-year-old Jabril Geter, who plays shooting guard on a PAC 10 division team, said the Biddy program has helped develop his all-around game, including dribbling, shooting and free-throws.
“I’m learning how to really play the game,” Geter said.
Playing in a co-ed league might be intimidating for some young girls, but nine-year-old Imanni Maxwell begs to differ, saying she is used to playing against boys.
“I have two brothers,” said Maxwell, who plays point guard on an ACC division team.
All of the games in the Biddy season are played on the newly remodeled court at the Santa Monica Boys & Girls Club.
Once the season begins, each of the teams will play at least one game a week, for a total of ten guaranteed games in the season.
After the regular season ends in late March, all-star teams will compete in the Biddy Classic tournament against teams from throughout Los Angeles, Arizona and Hawaii.
Following the Biddy Classic, all-star players from the Biddy NBA division will travel to Hawaii for another tournament.
As the Biddy season is set to begin at the start of the new year, LaBrie says he and the coaches are excited to continue the basketball tradition at the Santa Monica Boys & Girls Club.
“This is the best part of the year for me,” he said.