When North Bay Basketball Academy president Rick Winter approached Justin-Siena High assistant boys basketball coach Andy Viera about being a regional director, he was happy to accommodate.
Viera is the regional director for Napa/Sonoma, which was added to the already existing regions of Marin and Santa Rosa/Petaluma. The first session at Justin took place on March 21 and will run until May 19.
Viera is a regional director by title, but he also serves as a coach.
“At the varsity level, when I have coached with (Justin-Siena head coach) Ray (Particelli), we get kids that are athletic but they have not been taught basic basketball fundamentals,” Viera said. “Those things include proper dribbling form, proper jump stops, and proper shooting form. Those are things that haven’t been taught. The mission is to give the kids the skills necessary to be competitive at what ever level they want to play at.”
The program features boys and girls from grades 3-8. Viera added that the program also includes high school-aged players on Sunday evenings.
That session consists of 45 minutes of skill work, followed by 45 minutes of a controlled scrimmage.
The purpose of the program, Viera indicated, is to provide quality instruction in all aspects of basketball with an emphasis on fundamentals and skill development.
The fundamentals include but are not limited to ballhandling, shooting, footwork, rebounding and passing.
Viera also added that another goal of the program is to provide skill sessions for athletes to maintain their skills while participating in a spring sport, and to provide additional skill development for athletes participating in Club/AAU programs.
However, the program can be beneficial to kids regardless of skill level.
“With our skills sessions, in some cases we might get a kid where this is their first year ever playing basketball,” Viera said. “They come out and they are very green. Then we get some kids that have been playing basketball for years. What I try to tell the parents is that skill work is skill work, whether you have no experience or a lot of experience. You can always improve your skills.
“If we introduce a drill and it’s too easy for someone that might be at a higher skill level, we will introduce something to make it harder to challenge them.”
Viera, who graduated from St. Helena High in 1995 — where he played three seasons for Particelli — has the skills to teach.
He also played two years at Napa Valley College and two more at Holy Names College (Oakland). After using up his eligibility as a player, Viera still needed one more semester to get his degree, so he stayed in the program as an assistant coach.
Viera added that in an ideal world, no one session would exceed 24 kids. While Viera is the primary coach, Giules Particelli, Logan Songer, Andy Bettencourt and Tim Malloy will also help from time to time.
“Our numbers are not where we want them yet,” Viera said. “I think we will get them eventually. I would like to have a one-to-six (coach-to-player) ratio. Until we can consistently get those kids, I will bring in more coaches.”
Viera also indicated that while the region is called Napa/Sonoma by title, the sessions at Justin are not limited to kids living in Napa and Sonoma Counties.
Viera also hopes that the NBBA eventually leads to forming an AAU program — but most of all, teaching the game the right way takes ultimate priority.
“We want to give every kid the opportunity to become the basketball player that he or she wants to become,” Viera said. “You can’t be successful without teaching the game. You can’t have a successful program if you don’t have kids that are fundamentally sound. You can have the most athletic kids, but if they travel every time they touch the ball or don’t have proper shooting form, you just are not going to be successful.”
Now that Viera has long since made the transition from player to coach, he recognizes the importance of relating to players as it pertains to hopefully improving their skill level.
“That comes from knowing the players as well,” Viera said. “There are some kids you can yell at or strongly encourage. There are others where you don’t have to change the tone of your voice and they will make adjustments.”