Nine eighth-grade boys turned into a blur of baggy shorts and layups Tuesday night, animating the small gym at the Terry Miller Legislative Office Building.
Edd Webb, whistle around his neck, offered advice and encouragement as he watched.
"Way to go strong."
"Don't put that ball down there where that little guy can get it."
"Nice, nice. That was a good freeze."
It was the lexicon of a coach at work and Webb, co-founder and president of HoopTime basketball in Juneau, was in his element.
"There you go. Best shot tonight," he called out.
The season for HoopTime started in early January and Webb, 42, has been on the go ever since. His schedule is packed with work, board meetings and games. Spare moments are spent shuttling players home after practice.
"When you're talking about kids, it's gotta be fun, they've got to feel like they're doing something special that other people don't get to do, and it's got to keep them moving from beginning to end," he said, replicating the energy of his players.
Webb, who is 6 feet 3 inches tall and bald, might be imposing but for his contagious enthusiasm. He moved to Juneau in 1989 after serving in the U.S. Army as a cavalry scout, instructor and sergeant. Over the years, he's been a roughneck in the oil fields, a farmhand, a bouncer, cab driver, martial-arts instructor, truck driver and history-book author. He worked with emotionally disturbed teenagers before taking his current job as a computer network specialist with the state Department of Transportation.
"I've been teaching people for a long time," he said. "I'm good at absorbing stuff."
Right now, much of Webb's time is spent on HoopTime, a new basketball program for middle school-age boys and girls in Juneau. Webb and his wife, Julie, started HoopTime last year, in part because his stepson - who just turned 12 - likes to play basketball.
"I don't know, something happened. They just got to be that age where they can handle a little more," Webb said. "No pressure, a little more structure. I talked to some guys and said, 'Let's get some gym time and some basketballs.' So I bought 30 basketballs and tried to do as much as I could."
It turned into a rather large project. After a season of play, a trip to Haines and a second-place HoopTime finish in the Gold Medal Tournament last year, Webb and his wife tackled the paperwork. Or really, Julie did. The Internal Revenue Service approved HoopTime's nonprofit status at the end of November after five or six months of work, Julie Webb said.
"I'm the detail person and he's the visionary person," she said. "We fit together pretty well as far as that goes."
Edd Webb is expecting 120 players to be a part of HoopTime this year, up from last year's 35. The program's No. 1 principle: All kids who play HoopTime basketball are on the same team.
The focus is on basic skills instead of competition, Webb said.
"It's teaching discipline, teaching how to be part of a team, teaching them how to take direction," he said.
Another goal is to get HoopTime's teams playing against teams in Southeast Alaska and the Lower 48. But finding money to pay for travel and scholarships hasn't been easy, Webb admits. HoopTime wants all players to be able to travel, regardless of their family's income, he said.
"Kids down south play in hundreds of games a year, whereas here it's difficult to play in one tournament. With the transportation costs, it's a huge bill," he said. "We'll put every dime into the kids we have. If we had more dimes, we could get a lot more done."
Scott Damian, who is on HoopTime's board, has known Webb for years. The two coached in Little League and Juneau Youth Football League together.
"One of these days he's going to pick up something and he's going to be Bill Gates because he's got that work ethic," Damian said.
Despite the challenges, things are coming together, Webb says.
"I've finally found something I can do that's like breathing," he said. "I don't have to think about going out and coaching. It's easy, it's fun and it's different. You're preparing kids - the games take care of themselves."
Joanna Markell can be reached at email@example.com.
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