Young hoops enthusiasts throughout the Nicola Valley will be thrilled to hear that community-based basketball is just around the corner.

A new organization — the Merritt Youth Basketball Association — has been formed to provide an additional opportunity for youngsters aged 10 to 14 to play the game and improve their abilities.

“The MYBA seeks to promote the game of basketball within the community by teaching the fundamental skills and knowledge, and to build competitive youth teams by providing a platform for children to learn and enjoy the sport,” association spokesperson Gray Anscomb said.

In its first phase of development, the MYBA plans to run a 10-week league for all youth in Grades 4 to 7. It will run after Christmas, from January 5 to March 13.

Sessions will be held on Monday evenings at Collettville Elementary School for Grade 4 and 5 mixed-gender participants, and on Friday evenings at Merritt Secondary School for split-gender registrants.

“Each session will be divided up such that half the time will be skill development and instruction, and half the time will be game play,” Anscomb said.

The new league is being spearheaded by several local basketball coaches, like Merritt Secondary’s Dave Andersen, Brent Bowden and Gian Cavaliere.

“These coaches have noticed over the years that the level of play of the kids coming into high school has really dropped,” Anscomb said, “and they wanted to do something about it.

“The coaches have essentially been starting from scratch with young players at the high school level. It’s resulted in really weak teams, which proves to be very demoralizing for the youngsters involved. They just can’t compete with the programs coming out of Kamloops and the Okanagan.”

Anscomb said that the coaches looked around at how community soccer has really promoted development.

“It’s really paid off. The MYSA is almost a role model for the new basketball association.

“[The coaches] are well aware that area elementary schools can only do so much when it comes to skill development in the various sports they offer, and that it’s up to community-based groups to fill in the gaps and provide additional support and opportunities,” Anscomb said.

One need only look south to the tremendous success basketball is enjoying in the small community of Princeton. It has had community basketball for a good 10 years or more, and seen its high school teams regularly contend for regional titles and even compete at provincial championships.

The cost of the 10-week league that runs from January to March is $50 per child if registered by December 1st. The cost jumps to $75 after December 1st.

Fees cover the 10 weekly sessions, gym time, insurance, as well as a T-shirt and basketball for every participant.

Starting this week, MYBA registration forms are available at all area elementary school offices. The association also hopes to have a Facebook page up and running soon.

For more information, contact Dave Andersen at 250-378-5950 or [email protected].

Anyone interested in coaching with the MYBA is also encouraged to get in contact with Andersen as soon as possible.