Just like players who are magnetically drawn to an open court on a sunny day, two Squamish basketball leagues have come together.
The men behind each organization say their programs have grown over the last year, and the level of play has followed suit.
"Both of our programs started to kind of take off right after the pandemic," said Mike Wheaton, the director of SYBA.
Wheaton added that combining programs into The Sky League means Squamish can become a "powerhouse" for basketball.
The two organizations started working together over the summer.
"[We] shared coaches over the last little bit, and it's really benefited both programs, I think, as well as the kids. So, there's no reason not to go full steam ahead,” Wheaton said.
Both original organizations boast about 75 players each.
Hoop Reel is now the umbrella brand for the combined programming.
The girls play as the Squamish Scorpions academy while the boys are the Squamish Hustle academy.
"The girls' program, we just started working together this past season. The boys we are planning to start in the new year — in the winter season," said Yoni Marmorstein, the founder of Hoop Reel.
Players’ ages range from seven to 17 years old.
An advantage of combining forces is that the players will have the same development and coaching throughout their basketball careers, which will benefit both the players and teams, both men say.
But the merger isn't about creating a gigantic league, Marmorstein stressed.
“At the end of the day, it's not about getting a ton of kids ... It's more about growing the passion for the game. Whoever loves the game, we have a place for them to play. We want to be able to provide one competitive stream where they travel to the city, and they play games and compete at a higher level, but also have a stream in Squamish where they can play at home, and they don't have to travel," he said.
While SYBA was a non-profit and the new league is not officially so, the men say that no interested player will be turned away for lack of funds.
"We never want finances to be a barrier to entry. So when people need assistance, whether they go through a Canadian Tire funding program or they just come to me directly, we find a way to get them in the program," Marmorstein said.
The men say they aim to instill life skills and resiliency in players that will serve them off the court.
"We're trying to develop a really solid work ethic that's based around individual play, teamwork, as well as not being afraid to fail," said Wheaton. "We're trying to bring something bigger than basketball to them. We care about these kids a lot and we want them to understand that."
There will be a place for all skill levels of players in the combined league.
Basketball more popular in town
While basketball wasn't always top of mind for many as a main Squamish sport, that seems to be changing and the game’s future in the Sea to Sky is bright, both men said.
Marmorstein noted that parents tell him of more hoops going up on local streets, for example.
And with the top players from both organizations now playing together, Squamish should become a competitive force when they play outside town.
"We wanted to have all the players in the community kind of competing together. And also, when we go to play against teams in the city, we'll be able to pull from the top players in the community,” Marmorstein said.
But the men also have other programs and plans that are just about getting out on the court. For example, there are Friday night drop-in nights at Don Ross Middle School.
They are also trying an adult co-ed six-week session starting in February on Saturday nights.
"There's a lot of adults who want to play basketball. It's amazing how many phone calls I get, even though it says youth basketball on the [SYBA] website," said Wheaton with a laugh.
Registration starts Dec. 5.
Find out more at www.hoopreel.com.
Upcoming Sky League events
The second annual Hoops for Hampers parent and child charity game in support of the Howe Sound Women's Centre.
Dec. 19 to 22:
Hoop Reel Basketball Christmas Break Camp will be held at Quest University.
Jan .16 to Mar. 8:
Winter Sky League at Quest University (Monday and Wednesdays)
Two boys divisions/ one girls division
Jan. 13 to Mar. 10:
Build/Future Stars Camp at Brackendale Elementary School (Fridays from 5 to 6 p.m.)
Co-ed skill development camp ages 7 to 8
Jan. 20 to Mar. 10th:
Friday Night drop-ins at Don Ross Middle School ( from 7 to 9 p.m.)
Feb. 4th to Mar. 11th:
Co-ed adult league at Quest University (Saturdays, with the time TBD)