WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — High school basketball programs are eager to get back into the game after the pandemic put the sport on hiatus.
As the new school year begins, many coaches are encouraging their students to focus on success in the classroom in addition to the basketball court to maximize their college options.
Some coaches are expressing concerns about potential setbacks due to limited visits from college scouts.
However, Cassandra Rahming remains upbeat and comforted knowing that her team is spending their extra time focusing on academics.
“We just have to take it as it is and push the kids to do better in every area,” said Rahming, head coach of the Palm Beach Lakes High School women’s basketball team.
Rahming turns 23rd year as the school’s coach calling it his “Jordanian” year in benchmark basketball star Michael Jordan.
“I keep coming back to help the girls continue to achieve their goals and progress on their journey, whether it’s in basketball or in life in general,” Rahming said.
Zaida Gonzalez is a senior at Palm Beach Lakes High School and started the new school year with scholarships to Florida International University and a college in South Carolina.
“Things are really, really different,” Gonzalez said of the pandemic. “However, I feel like I got two offers and staying in college has motivated me to keep doing what I’m doing,” Zaida Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez said her family also encourages her to stay focused on school.
She thanks her mom for a helpful reminder to keep all her skills as sharp as possible.
“My mom always says, ‘the ball is going to stop bouncing one day, so you have to be on top of your academics.'”
However, coach Brandon Arnette says college scholarship opportunities in basketball are already limited compared to sports like football.
Arnette is a teacher at Jupiter Middle School and coach of the Benjamin School men’s basketball team.
He is also the founder of a rigorous basketball program called Ball4Lyfe.
“Ball4Lyfe stands for ‘Basketball, education, leadership, life skills to effectively lay the foundation for youth,’” said Brandon Arnette.
For nearly eight years, Arnette has trained and mentored student-athletes to become successful college basketball players.
“Over the past six to seven years, we’ve put over 20 guys through college,” Arnette said.
Arnette helped lead the Bucs to the Class 2A men’s basketball state championship in 2001. He continues to instill lessons from his high school experience to help train students to keep their goal of getting into the ‘university.
However, a scholarship can be the deciding factor in determining whether a student can actually attend.
“Unfortunately, many children in our area may not be able to go to college if they don’t have any financial aid or scholarships,” Arnette said. “With tuition fees ranging from $30,000 to $50,000 a year, it’s hard for parents to afford this, especially in these times.”
The extra time spent in the field over several years helps hone their athletic ability and maximize their college options after graduating from high school.
Kyle McNeal is currently in the Ball4Lyfe program and is already making an impression on the Palm Beach County basketball scene as a sophomore at Dwyer High School.
“Coach B arrived and I’ve since started playing,” McNeal said. “My favorite is when we go out of state and play good competition.”
Arnette said he can’t wait to see what the future holds for McNeal.
McNeal also expressed his dedication to the sport and that he is willing to put in the extra time and work to ensure his success.
“I think it makes me better and also improves my level of thinking,” McNeal said.
Ball4Lyfe is based in Palm Beach County, however, students from surrounding counties are encouraged to participate.
For more information on the Ball4Lyfe program, Click here.