Colin Bolinger was coaching travel ball, but not the traditional way.
As coach of Chapel Rip City, which are AAU basketball teams, for the past eight years, Bolinger rented out gyms and spaces to practice.
When COVID hit, it was more difficult to rent out those gyms, mainly because they were at local schools.
“Finally, it just came down to a desperate need to get a place for the kids, so I opened this place in October,” said the former Indiana State shooting guard.
He was referring to Hoops Heaven, an indoor training facility for basketball players of all skill levels.
Bolinger runs five teams — elementary boys, middle school boys and girls, JV boys and varsity boys — with Chapel Rip City.
Hoops Heaven has now become a place to identify players looking to not only take their game to the next level, but to also join those teams.
“Having the youth development league really gives us a way to identify kids here that want to join AAU, so that allows us just to lead them into it,” he said.
The facility, he said, provides an opportunity to find youths who have a keen interest in basketball.
“There is nothing like this around our area, nothing like that out here in Zephyrhills, and I’ve seen the huge growth in Wesley Chapel and just knew that there would be kids coming to me for basketball,” Bolinger added.
Being a native of Indiana, Bolinger has basketball in his blood. He was a graduate assistant coach at Indiana State, the storied program where basketball legend Larry Bird played. Bolinger also played for the last Sycamore team to make the NCAA Tournament in 2011.
And as a coach, Bolinger doesn’t focus primarily on winning. Of course, that’s the desire of all players and coaches, but his main interest is working with players to help them develop the skills to succeed on the court, no matter where they compete.
“I want these players to learn how to play the game from a complex level,” he said. “I definitely know that I approach (teaching) differently than a lot of coaches — I give the kids a lot of stuff, but I’m trying to make it where they can be successful under any coach.
“Some coaches are focused on getting them to win right this moment, and that’s not what we do here, which I know takes some getting used to on the players’ part.”
Once they buy into the philosophy, however, players are embracing Bolinger’s style, and then succeed in improving their skills.
“They teach you how to work on your handling a lot and they have a lot of great drills,” said Joe Brunfeld, who has been training at Hoops Heaven for six months now.
“I think they try to work you pretty hard, but in a smart way. More so where it’s helpful for your whole game and not just one certain part of it. I think my game has improved from being here,” the teenager said.
The players’ parents are seeing the results, too.
“She’s picking up good habits and fundamentals, and it’s something she loves to do,” said Delano Howson, whose daughter, Kayden, trains at Hoops Heaven. “Before she got here, she knew how to shoot and stuff, but is now putting it all together — like dribbling with both hands and making proper layups. The improvement has been (like) night and day.
“And,” Howson added, “having this right here in Zephyrhills, where she can meet some kids, too, is absolutely the best.”
In the end, Bolinger is trying to coach his players the best way he knows how.
“I try to give them the baseline so they can go to any program, any team, any coach and know what to do,” he said. “It’s a lot different than just working on layups. That’s important, but it’s also a little higher concept, so it doesn’t just look like a bunch of crowded kids running down the court.”
Details: An indoor basketball training facility that teaches players of all skills the fundamentals, and offers camps, as well as parties.
Where: 40417 Chancey Road, Zephyrhills
Info: Visit TheHoopsHeaven.com, call 812-841-6042, or email .
Published August 24, 2022