RIALTO – The thud of basketballs and sound of screeching sneakers set the ambience inside the gymnasium at Eisenhower High School on Saturday, where 125 youths participated in the inaugural Joe Baca Foundation Basketball Fitness Clinic.
The free basketball clinic was a chance for underprivileged boys and girls to learn the fundamentals of basketball and importance of physical fitness.
“It’s fun, fitness and fundamentals. I call it the three F’s,” said John Arnold, one of several coaches who took part in the clinic.
At the sound of a buzzer, boys and girls between the ages of 8 and 13 rotated clockwise every 15 minutes to six stations, learning how to dribble, rebound and block, among other things. They huddled together and chanted “unity” before moving on to another court to learn a new drill.
Joe Baca Jr., a Rialto councilman who heads the clinic and the son of Rep. Joe Baca after whom the clinic is named, said the clinic is an avenue for those who can’t afford costly basketball camps.
He said a one-day camp typically costs between $100 and $200.
“Our family just loves sports and giving back to the community,” the younger Baca said.
He stood on one of the courts inside the gym and said it was the same court he played on while he attended the school.
“I was cut from my junior high team, but I tried out in high school and got on the team,” he said.
If the clinic can teach kids anything, it is the concept of never giving up, the younger Baca said.
Boys and girls from across the San Bernardino Valley and as far as Banning participated in Saturday’s clinic, he added.
Other coaches included Fontana A.B. Miller High School basketball coach John Rominoli and Lorenzo Hall of First Step Basketball Inc. in Fontana.
For 13-year-old Joseph Luna – who heard about the clinic through his mother, who is a friend of Arnold’s – basketball was a nice change of pace from his sport of choice: football.
He plays Pop Warner Football, but took advantage of Saturday’s free clinic as a way to keep the blood pumping and have a little fun.
“I came to stay in shape for football,” he said.
Eleven-year-old Rialto resident Scha’lynn Strong, who attends Ethel Kucera Middle School, started playing basketball in her backyard last year.
She learned the importance of extending the hands for defensive purposes and being able to use both of them effectively.
“I’m bad with my left (hand). I need to practice, or people will steal the ball,” she said.
Joe Nelson, Staff Writer