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July 29, 2009 > Centerville Youth Basketball Program a slam dunk

Centerville Youth Basketball Program a slam dunk

By Gary van den Heuvel

It's a few minutes before 3:30 p.m. on a sunny and breezy Wednesday afternoon in July. About a dozen young teens have congregated on the Centerville Presbyterian Church grounds in front of the gymnasium.

The kids, almost all of them boys, are hanging out, socializing; a couple of them playfully spar, karate-style, while they wait to be granted entry onto the basketball floor. When their coach shows up with the keys to the gym, the kids greet him informally - "Hey Dutra, are you gonna let us in?"

The Centerville Presbyterian Church (CPC) Youth Basketball After-School Program was started by Dominic Dutra, a former Fremont City Council member, in February of this year.

"I love basketball and youth," said Dutra. "This was a powerful opportunity to provide fun, love and discipline for kids in one of the tougher areas of Fremont."

Dutra is the CEO of Dutra-Cerro-Graden, a commercial real estate and land development company. Dutra, nicknamed "the Dominator," also has some athletic prowess of his own; besides being a talented basketball player with a formidable jump shot, he garnered some attention last year by winning the 2008 "Dancing With Your Local Stars" contest in Fremont.

The CPC program is epitomized by its motto, "Committed to Building Real Men," and in its early stages, the program was aimed at boys only, until 15-year-old Lilly Walker-Henry and her 13-year-old sister Gracie showed up one Wednesday about two months ago.

"My brother Terrence lied and told me there were a lot of girls. He did that to get me to come here," said Lilly. "They welcomed me in, but they thought I wasn't serious."

That was a mistake - Lilly plays on the Washington High School girls varsity team.

"It's fun, not really competitive, and my game is getting better because I'm going against a lot of boys," Lilly said. When asked about her strengths on the court, Lilly described herself as "a great defender." Her sister Gracie chimed in, "Free throws!," to which Lilly agreed. A few minutes of shoot-around indicate that Lilly is also one of the best outside shooters in the gym.

Dutra's current agenda for the program is the upcoming Woodleaf Camp in Challenge, California, being put on by Tri City Young Life in Fremont. "We're sending four kids for sure," said Dutra, and there is room for a couple more. The camp, which goes from August 10-16, costs $550, and the CPC is donating $450 for every participant who can go.

Besides basketball, the camp is featuring swimming, mountain biking, a zip line, pool hall, ropes courses and more. CPC has been raising money to send kids to the camp through community service volunteer work and a July 25 E-Waste drop-off fundraiser at the church.

Dutra also organizes pizza and movie nights for the group every few weeks.

After shoot-around, Dutra gathers the kids at mid-court, where they take a seat on the floor. On this day there are 14 kids in attendance; during the school year, there will often be 20 or more students in the gym, including Dutra's teenage son.

The coach updates the players on the status of the fundraiser and camp, and relates the story of an incident which occurred at a recent practice, when two boys nearly got into a fight. He uses the story to impart a lesson.

"It was a lack of humility," Dutra tells the group. "They started bumping each other, calling fouls which the other didn't agree with. Instead of being humble, they argued. All they had to do was take a step back, but they let it escalate." The coach led a group prayer before starting the drills, in which both he and Youth Pastor Matt (who on this day was playing barefooted) participated.

First was lay-ups - right-handed and then lefty. Then it was reverse lay-ups, both righty and lefty. Following the lay-ups, it was time for outside shooting: first from the side, then the corner, then 3-pointers. After a solid 20 minutes of drills, teams were chosen for a full-court game.

"I like the gym, it's better than playing outside," said 15-year-old Tim Muriithi. Muriithi, who lives close to the church, has been attending the program for about a month, after, in his words, "someone knocked on my door and told me about it."

Angel Perez is a 16-year-old student at Washington who is serious enough about basketball that he plays on an AAU team. He's been coming for about six months. "It's good to come and practice, to stay out of trouble," Perez said. "Coach Dutra is a good person."

Despite the talent level of players such as Angel Perez and Lilly Walker-Henry, the program welcomes players of all skill levels.

"We have players like Angel, and then we have kids that are literally just learning how to play basketball," said Dutra. "We have the whole spectrum, which is pretty cool, because everyone gets accepted into the group, and everyone roots for each other. That's part of what we're trying to teach them - be humble. Look out for someone else."

The Centerville Basketball Program meets every Wednesday afternoon from 3:30 to 5:30 at Centerville Presbyterian Church, located at 4360 Central Avenue. The gym doors close at 3:45. Coach Dutra can be contacted at ddutra@dcgdev.com.

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