Rec Center home to Jr. Jazz program
The Junior Jazz youth basketball program hosted by the Hanna Recreation Center had 170 children sign up for the program. The center has been hosting this program for almost 40 years in Carbon County.
Saratoga is fielding nine teams, Encampment sixteams and Hanna four teams.
Participants range from kindergarten age to fifth grade.
Vivian Gonzales, acting Parks and Recreation Director for Hanna, is the coordinator for Junior Jazz basketball and has been around since the Hanna Recreation Center opened. Gonzales reaches out to the communities of Encampment and Saratoga to set up schedules, order custom jerseys for each town and works with the Utah Jazz professional basketball team when they send an NBA player to meet with the children.
Preparation starts in late fall to get the registration ready for February. The games will go until the end of April.
Lisa Burton is the coordinator for activities in Saratoga and Brooke Powell handles Encampment.
Practice is two nights per week for each team and it is all volunteer on the adults’ part.
Each team hosts a game, and that means travel for the teams. Hanna hosted Encampment Saturday and will host Saratoga April 22.
Gonzales says the low number of teams from Hanna this year is partly because a youth wrestling program is going on concurrently. Next year she will look at the calendar to see what programs might conflict with the Utah Jazz program.
A highlight for the children is meeting an NBA player. Gonzales says all children that participate will be invited. Some years this has not been the case, but under Gonzales, this will occur she says.
When an NBA player comes to Hanna, he does a skills day with the children. There are discounts available with restaurants, tickets to games and other sponsors. It is a way for the clubs to give back to the communities. The date will be announced in the near future.
Gonzales said the kindergarteners and first grade teams are coached to just have fun. Fundamentals are introduced to the older players, but fun is still emphasized.
Gonzales says there will be a similar program with baseball sponsored by the Salt Lake Bees, a Los Angeles Angels affiliate.
The Salt Lake Bees and the Utah Jazz have the same owner. The Bees are in the Pacific Conference Southern Division where they play out of the 15,000 plus capacity Smith’s Ballpark in Salt Lake City.
The Bees will also send at least one player to visit Hanna for a skills day.
“The Utah Jazz basketball program is a tradition we carry on with pride,” said Gonzales.
She looks forward to the Bee’s baseball program having the same tradition.