The follow-throughs were not always perfect and the shots didn’t always fall, but the fourth, fifth, and sixth graders that showed up at Carrillo Recreation Center on Saturday certainly had a lot of fun.

The Eastside Optimist Club of Santa Barbara put on a Hoop Shoot competition for elementary school students with the opportunity to earn a scholarship to play basketball at the Ben Page Youth Center. Club president Olivia Uribe said her organization aims to “help the local community of kids and our mission is essentially bringing out the best in kids.”

One way of doing that, according to the club’s vice president, George Trujillo, was to give lower-income kids the chance to play basketball at a higher level. “The reason I wanted to give out scholarships for basketball is because they’re $185,” said Trujillo. “A lot of kids at the schools that we went to were low income, and I wanted to give those kids an opportunity to be able to play in a higher league.”

The Hoop Shoot competition consisted of players taking 10 free throws. First place for each grade was awarded the scholarship, while second and third places received gift cards to a sporting goods store of $50 and $25, respectively.

Judah Luberto, who competed in the fourth-grade competition, won by making six of his 10 attempts. Luberto, whose father, Keith, is the head basketball coach at Providence Hall High School, said he was excited to be able to play at the Ben Page Youth Center and that his father always tries to help him improve his basketball ability. “He makes me go to his basketball camps and he lets me play outside a lot and we have a basketball hoop in our driveway so I can shoot around,” said the 10-year-old El Montecito School student.

Regardless of who won a prize, the day was a success. “There’s a lot of great kids who go to schools on the Eastside or the Westside around Santa Barbara that don’t have the opportunity to play at the Ben Page Center,” said Trujillo, “so that’s what my goal was, to allow these kids who could play basketball, that are great at basketball, go to higher competition. I want to keep them more focused into sports. I want to keep them out of gangs and what else they can get into as teenagers.”

A huge step was taken toward that goal on Saturday, and hopefully more steps are taken in the future. That way, at some point, the follow-through will be one to be admired and the shots will fall effortlessly, time and time again.


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