By Ray Hamill — Team Beasts are gearing up for what they hope will be a busy year on the basketball court as the North Coast begins a gradual return to indoor sports.
The Eureka-based club will tip off a four-on-four mini league today with eyes on a return to some big out-of-area tournaments in the coming weeks.
“We’re gunning for the end of next month to be our first tournament,” club director and coach Eddy Vainuku said. “But it depends on how the pandemic goes.”
Vainuku has kept many of his players busy during the pandemic, with online workouts and restricted practices in small pods when allowed, but he admits other players will need to find their game feet again after such a long shutdown.
“The families are getting more comfortable with it and they’re trickling back into the gym,” Vainuku said. “On Tuesday we’re starting our own bubble league so people can get back into game situations. Were going to keep it small numbers.”
The four-on-four league will run on Tuesdays and Saturdays for the girls and on Thursdays and Sundays for the boys, and will be split into two age groups, high school players and middle school players.
The club will also continue to run pods of small workouts on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
And for Vainuku, it’s the simple things he’s enjoying about having all of his players back together.
“There’s something about the sound of squeaky shoes and a basketball bouncing,” he said with a smile. “It’s so awesome to hear again.”
The players too are clearly enthusiastic about being back in action.
“Their attitude is crazy,” Vainuku said. “They’re so happy to be back. It’s awesome for them.”
Vainuku expects numbers to be higher than ever after the pandemic and Team Beasts will likely field 14 teams in 2021, a record number in the club’s sixth year.
“We actually gained numbers during the pandemic,” Vainuku said. “Most other programs shut down, but we kept going as much as possible. We never gave up on these kids.”
The club director also expects big things out of some of his teams this year, particularly the eighth-grade and ninth-grade boys and girls teams.
In fact, he says, this group of four teams is as talented a group as he’s ever seen on the North Coast.
“These kids are the future of basketball here,” he said. “It’s probably the best group I’ve ever had in this program. I haven’t seen talent this good around here before.”
Along with Vainuku, local coaches Tony Miles and Romeo Steele continue to play a big role in the club’s progress, as does local pro Mo Charlo, who continues to help out from time to time when he’s in the area.