Friday, April 5, 2013

Rick Winter and his North Bay Basketball Academy

Remember that line from "The Godfather III"?

Al Pacino offered it: "Just when I thought I was out...they pull me back in."

With Rick Winter it would be "just when some thought I was out, I dove back in" because after a much-heralded career at Marin Catholic High, he has chosen not to rest on his lofty laurels.

Winter retired with the fourth highest win percentage (70%) in Marin County Athletic League history and an overall success percentage of 63% at the varsity level. After 15 years at the helm and becoming the winningest coach in school history, the collective  resumé of his teams boasts of six Marin County Athletic League Championships, three North Coast Section championships and four California State Playoff appearances.

But now he has a new mission.

Winter is the Executive Director of the North Bay Basketball Academy with the goal of developing Marin County, Napa County and Sonoma County basketball talents to their fullest potential.

The Academy mission statement is:
* To provide quality instruction in all aspects of basketball with an emphasis on fundamentals and skill development. NBBA will strive to enhance each athlete's skills in an effort to better equip them for their short and long-term goals.

* To give our athletes the necessary skills to perform successfully in basketball and life with an emphasis on sportsmanship, respect, responsibility, leadership and teamwork.

* To pursue athletic scholarships for those players who have the desire, athletic ability, and academic standing to play at the collegiate level.
So why did Winter continue his basketball connection?

"Because at the younger grade levels there was a need in Marin for focusing on fundamentals and skill development, while in the high school grades we needed a local program that could get our best players exposure to college coaches," he explained.

That desire has resulted in 2,000 families participating in skills clinics, camps, and an amazing 48 AAU teams this spring.

It's a simple criteria for joining: "we want any player who has a desire to get better and will work hard." 
NBBA features two tiers of participation. There is the select level which currently plays a regional schedule, with the goal of playing a national schedule by spring 2014, including Las Vegas in late July. The club level ends its competition in late May with the Reno Tourney. According to Winter, some of the latter's participants are good enough to play on the select level but their situations don't allow for the lengthier time commitment.
What is also unique about the NBBA is Winter's upfront statement: "we care less about wins and losses." But it's not that competitiveness isn't desired or present -- it is -- but the focus is on developing kids over time. However, that approach has created success on the court as the NBBA's top teams are now competing with the top teams in the region.
Mike Turner and Zach Borello are full-time NBBA employees. Turner was a two-time Marin County Athletic league most valuable player under Winter at Marin Catholic High who went on to play at the University of Hartford and then professionally in Germany. Borello is the junior varsity boys basketball coach at Drake High.
Also on Winter's staff of 40 part-time instructors are longtime Drake High Head Coach Doug Donnellan, San Rafael High Head Coach Tony Butler and Napa Valley College Head Coach Steve Ball, three well known basketball names in their respective geographical areas.

It's spring in Marin but Winter is never absent and that's good for aspiring basketball players.

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