New opportunities arise for Las Vegas area high school basketball players

Posted at 6:42 PM, Feb 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-03 02:59:25-05

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — When Clark County School District canceled winter sports, Sunrise Mountain High School basketball coach Stephen Van Orden thought that was it.

"When we first got the word, we were all pretty devastated," Van Orden said. "We didn't think there were any options."

But just like on the court, momentum can change fast.

"The next day Coach [Jeff] Kauffman sent a mass email to all the coaches saying, 'oh we're going to have an ultimate league. A chance to play.' It changed the whole atmosphere," he said.

The ball began rolling in early December to recreate the high school season through a March club team tournament called League of Legends.

League of Legends will only be possible if Gov. Steve Sisolak moves basketball into medium risk so games can resume. And there's another hurdle.

"There's nowhere to play," said Jeff Kauffman, who leads the Nevada Basketball Coaches Association and coaches Coronado High School's team and club team.

"The schools are not open, and understandably so, and there are limited facilities in the Las Vegas area for kids to get inside of a gym and play," explained Kauffman. He estimates about half the teams that want to play right can't because they simply don't have the resources.

"They charge $65 an hour, which our kids don't really have that kind of money," said Van Orden. "I was going to eat it. I'm not going to let my boys not be able to participate."

But getting kids who may not have the resources a chance to play is the whole point.

That's why the NBCA has partnered with the Las Vegas Basketball Center -- to take all the unreserved court time and either find sponsors for high school club teams or waive the fee entirely.

"We were sponsored today by the National Latino Police Officers Association," said Van Orden. "They told us they were going to pay the rest of our fine for the league."

The Sunrise Mountain High School basketball club team will hit the courts at Las Vegas Basketball Center on Wednesday, in preparation for a possible condensed season next month.

Coach Van Orben said this is welcome news for student-athletes who are motivated by the game they love.

"Every single day they sleep, they dream, they eat basketball," he said.

"Taking it away is like, 'Why am I even going to school?' So it's just keeping that hope at the end of the tunnel," explained Van Orben.

"We're going to be able to play one day. So just keep going, keep working through it."