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By Steve Finley
Sports Editor 

Culver City basketball coaches discover the fountain of youth

 

George Laase

Culver City basketball coaches, from left to right Michael Cooper, DJ Vincent and Ray

Culver City schools and especially the high school has never been known for boys' basketball, but the tide may be turning if the high school can make another run deep into the CIF and State playoffs. The girls high school team under the direction of coach Julian Anderson has produced championship and winning programs for the past 16 years but not the boys. Last season (2022-23) the boys' team took a giant step into the category of respectability.

The boys' team, under the direction of head coach Michael Cooper and assistants Ray Singleton and DJ Vincent led their team to the state regional final, one game away from playing for the state championship. Now they are trying to build a strong foundation for the future.

Vincent has been working with the Culver City Middle School for the past 10 years but this year the coaches decided to work directly with the elementary schools to help strengthen the foundation and build a bond with the players and parents to try to help keep the basketball talent in Culver City. In the past, good basketball players would leave Culver City after their middle school playing days were over.

Through the Youth Sports and Enrichment Program (YSE) founded by Vincent 10 years ago, Vincent, Cooper and Singleton got together and started an elementary coed basketball league that concluded a few weeks ago. The league consisted of five Culver City elementary schools. When you walked into the middle school gym on the first day of workouts the atmosphere was electric, and you could feel the energy bouncing off the gym walls.

"This was the first year at the elementary schools teaching young student athletes and getting them acclimated into school and sports," said Vincent. "I coached Cooper's son in middle school and we both wanted to build something strong in Culver City because Culver City was known for football, girls' basketball and track but not boys' basketball.

"So, Coop and I got together and said it is time to do something for the younger kids and get the program off the ground. The parents wanted it, the superintendent wanted it, so we made it happen. This year we did it."

With Vincent coaching at the middle school and Cooper and Singleton at the high school they wanted to connect the dots between the elementary, middle school and the high school. "Hopefully this will help keep our student athletes at the high school," said Vincent.

"We want to teach the kids to be student athletes with high Grade point averages so they can move on to the next level," said Vincent. "We would like to see this program go year-round. It's still a work in progress but we have a lot of support from the district and parents.

"The elementary school program was very successful," said Vincent. "The kids competed at a high level. It turned out better than we thought it would be. There are a lot of good players in Culver City. This program shows that we need to retain our talent and just polish it up and keep our boys and girls here."

The five elementary schools that participated in the league were El Rincon, Farragut, El Marino, Linwood E. Howe and La Ballona.

 

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