Junior Hillmen start with a swish

Placer boys hoops’ first feeder team claims AAU tournament title in Rocklin in its first outing
By: Todd Mordhorst Journal Sports Editor
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Glen Ikeda was hoping the first edition of the Junior Hillmen basketball program could build a foundation and get some momentum going for the future this summer. After just one tournament, the youth version of the green and gold is doing more than that. The Placer Jr. Hillmen squad made up of incoming seventh graders took first place at the Xtreme Hoops “Fast Break” Tournament in Rocklin last weekend. The Jr. Hillmen defeated the Yellow Jackets, from Sacramento, 51-36 in the championship game. Ikeda organized the effort to start the Junior Hillmen program, which is the first feeder team associated with Placer hoops. He consulted with Placer High boys basketball coach Mark Lee, Placer principal Peter Efstathiu and even district administrator Dave Horsey before getting the program going. Tryouts were held in June and the team has been hard at work since then, preparing for a handful of AAU tournaments and developing a group that Ikeda hopes will have a competitive advantage when it reaches the prep ranks. “Most of the other schools in the area have feeder programs,” Ikeda said. “Placer had no feeder program, so I decided to put it together. We started with two teams and we’re hoping to enlarge it in the future.” Ikeda coaches the green squad, and veteran coach Lars Harelson heads up the gold squad, which won the tournament last weekend. Among the 18 players participating in the program, most are or will be E.V. Cain Middle School students. There are also players from Bowman and Rock Creek and even one player that is home-schooled. Ikeda, who is a co-founder of Ikeda’s Market and a Placer graduate, is excited about the future of Placer hoops. His son Brendyn is a slick guard and forms a tough tandem with lanky post player Jeremy Lillis. Ikeda’s brother Steve, and father both played basketball for the Hillmen. The Junior Hillmen are hard at work this summer, practicing each Tuesday at E.V. Cain’s Stacy Dragila Gym. There are scrimmages weekly and the schedule includes two more tournaments this month. Ikeda said Harelson is a no-nonsense coach and the improvement in the players this summer has been significant. “The thing I like about him is he’s old school, fundamentals,” Ikeda said of his fellow coach. “He will drill the fundamentals all day long and when they stop paying attention, they’ll start running. And then he has their attention again.” The inaugural season will conclude at the end of August and the middle school season will begin in October.