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Loomis hoops it up for funds

Local team takes on Harlem Ambassadors in chamber fundraiser
By: Elizabeth Speth,Loomis News Correspondent
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Harlem-style basketball is thundering into town, and a rag-tag team of business leaders, educators and coaches may never be the same. “I think there will be some aches and pains when all is said and done,” said Mike Takayama, coach of the disparate team of Loomis-area players collectively called the Chamber Champs. On May 13, the Champs confront the Harlem Ambassadors, a slam-dunking, fast-dribbling exhibition team that tours the United States and abroad. The event, slated for 7 p.m. in the Del Oro High School gymnasium, is billed as family entertainment for a good cause. According to event sponsor, the Loomis Basin Chamber of Commerce, proceeds from ticket sales benefit local chamber programs and school athletic programs. The team roster includes two area principals, several Del Oro coaches, two Loomis district physical education teachers, law enforcement officers, a firefighter, a youth pastor, and a scuba instructor. At least one of the players, Del Oro Assistant Varsity Basketball Coach Tom Tran, is a little worried. “This team is serious. They have a heavy tour schedule. I think they might be some serious competition,” Tran said. But Tran, who coaches four youth basketball teams, is looking forward to some “old school playing” from his teammates who have not hit the hardwood in a while. Coach Takayama agrees. “We have some current, past and way-past athletes,” he said. Outlining his coaching strategy for such a diverse group of players, he deadpanned, “The most important thing will be having the paramedics in place.” Takayama, a Del Oro graduate who played both high school and college basketball, is currently the Girls Varsity Basketball Coach at Del Oro. A financial planner with L.P.L. Financial, he holds out hope that once the game starts “we’ll definitely have the competitive fire in our bellies.” Takayama’s driving force is his strong motivation to preserve Del Oro’s “high standards of excellence” in athletic programs. “They won’t survive in this current environment of budget cuts without fundraising opportunities like this,” he said. Jennifer Knisley, chamber of commerce office manager, said tickets are still available for the Harlem Ambassadors exhibition match. She called the event “incredibly affordable for family entertainment. It’s less than the cost of a movie theater with snacks.” The Harlem Ambassadors website describes the players as graduates of college basketball programs who have elected to be drug-free role models. Admission is $9 for adults, $7 for students, and children aged four and under are free. Tickets will be sold at the door, for $2 more than the advance purchase price. For tickets and more information, call the chamber at 652-7252.