Basketball club

Registration is now open for all three leagues in the Energy Youth Basketball Club. Visit energyhoopclub.com for more information.

A former Redmond High basketball coach is looking to bring some energy back to the hoops programs at local high schools.

Dusty Porter, now principal at John Tuck Elementary, has seen the local basketball programs struggle since Ridgeview High opened in 2012. He hopes to remedy that by getting kids playing the sport competitively at an earlier age.

“We didn’t need as many skilled athletes coming through the pipeline every year to build a competitive program,” Porter said of his time coaching the Panther boys from 2008-11.

But with the talent pool divided, that has changed.

In the 2017-18 season, the Redmond boys went 3-9 in the Class 5A Intermountain Conference, while Ridgeview was 1-11, last in the five-team league. Only the Ridgeview girls had a winning record, going 10-2 to finish just out of first in the league, while the Redmond girls went 2-10.

Porter is the president of the new Energy Youth Basketball Club, which will feature three leagues, each with teams of boys and girls representing each grade level at each Redmond elementary and middle school. Registration for the league is open now, with play in the first of the leagues — the Fall Senior League for fourth through sixth graders — scheduled to start Nov. 1, running through Dec. 15.

The program will also include the Winter Junior League, running Jan. 2-Feb.28, for first through third grades, and the Winter Senior Advanced Season, from Jan. 2-March 15, for fourth through eighth grades.

The league is a nonprofit, but has a strategic partnership with the Redmond School District, Porter said. That will allow players in the 3-on-3 junior league to represent their schools, using variations on the schools’ nicknames, such as the John Tuck Energy Tornadoes and the Vern Patrick Energy Panther Cubs.

“We’re trying to build school pride and help kids stay together,” Porter said.

John Tuck is having an open gym on Sundays during the summer to help young players get ready for the season.

The league has a strong budget of $150,000, which Porter credits sponsorships and donations for. It will help with the lofty goal of getting between 700 and 1,000 kids playing this year.

The league has two unpaid volunteer boards, the executive board, which handles the financial side, and the operations board, which oversees gameplay aspects like coaching. Among the operations board members is district Athletic Director Kevin Bryant, who serves as character education coordinator.

Among the models for the program is the local mat club, which has helped make Redmond High’s wrestling team a perennial state contender, Porter said. He hopes the idea will spread to other sports.

Along with energy, the league has a goal if instilling a growth-oriented mindset and attitude, as well as the desire to give best effort, in kids, Porter said.

While local parks and recreation teams work on getting the kids feet wet without keeping score, Porter said his league seeks to develop fundamentals.

It will feature licensed, paid game officials. The Energy league also guarantees between 15 and 20 games for each team.

Middle school boys will be able to play in the Energy league separate from the official school season, while girls will have to play at the same time as school play until something can be worked out, Porter said.

The advanced league will be part of the Central Oregon Basketball Organization, with teams broken into at least two divisions based on skill level. Teams will play other COBO teams, with Redmond playing host to a tournament over the Martin Luther King Day weekend.

“We’re really trying to reduce the need for travel, so the kids can stay here in Central Oregon and get high quality basketball experience,” Porter said.

The league is also open to teams from other Central Oregon cities, and Porter said he has already heard from groups in Madras, Prineville and Bend.

The cost of the league is also affordable, he said. Registration fees range from $85 for the 3-on-3 junior league to $195 for the senior advanced season. The cost doesn’t include a $10 Nike jersey.

Players who can get a note from a teacher, clergy member or other official showing they are economically disadvantaged can apply for a scholarship taking $50 off the entry fee because of a partnership with Bend-based Kids in the Game, Porter said.

The league is promoting itself at events like the upcoming July 4 parade and the new 3-on-3 tournament in Redmond. It is also active on social media.

Within five years, the program could be leading to league and state titles for Redmond and Ridgeview, said Clinton Cheney, energy’s vice president.

“That’s a lofty goal, but we have a lot of great athletes in Redmond, and we can make that happen,” he said.

Ultimately, Porter wants the basketball program to be a selling point for Redmond.

“We want people considering moving to Central Oregon to look at Redmond for the elite youth basketball program for their children,” he said. “They’d be able to experience that at a price that’s affordable for everyone.”

— Reporter: 541-548-2186, gfolsom@redmond spokesman.com

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