Sacred Hoops basketball blossoms quickly

Allan Bertram's vision has exceeded expectations. Bertram recently left his position as the Sanford Power Basketball Academy Coordinator to start his own venture. He envisioned a basketball academy that provides opportunities for players across t...


Allan Bertram's vision has exceeded expectations.

Bertram recently left his position as the Sanford Power Basketball Academy Coordinator to start his own venture. He envisioned a basketball academy that provides opportunities for players across the entire state and that brings the training to them.

"We were just looking at ways we could help reach more athletes in South Dakota and preferably at all areas of the state," Bertram said. "Not just necessarily the focus of a certain geographical area."

So far, so good. In a short amount of time, Bertram's new program-Sacred Hoops Basketball for Life-has blossomed into the biggest basketball academy in South Dakota, he said. This summer, Sacred Hoops has more than 300 players on 30 AAU teams, with boys and girls teams stretching from 17-and-under all the way down to 11-and-under. The rosters are filled with players from all parts of the state-both East River and West River.

Bertram didn't expect the overwhelming support in such a short amount of time.


"It's humbling because a lot of people believe in us and we worked really hard to build a reputation over a lot of years of hard work," said Bertram, a former Chamberlain High School boys basketball coach. "It feels good to know people believe in you as a coach, but it also tells you that there is a big need out there for a lot of these kids that have never had these opportunities before."

The program has received sponsorship money from various businesses and Sacred Hoops will provide weekly outreach camps, fall leagues and coaches clinics.

This summer, the program will conduct workouts at more than 50 high schools on a weekly basis and Bertram estimates the program will workout between 1,200 to 1,500 players. In June, they'll have some days with training in as many as seven high schools per day throughout the entire state.

"No matter where you live, you don't have a very big distance to travel to be able to have access to top quality basketball training and have opportunities to play on competitive teams," Bertram said.

The academy has training sites in Aberdeen, Sioux Falls and Rapid City. The Reede Barn (Aberdeen) and the Cathedral Gymnasium (Sioux Falls) house the training locations on the eastern part of the state.

In Rapid City, a new facility is being built and will be finished in September. It will feature three basketball courts and 6,000 square feet of training space.
"Sioux Falls has a ton of basketball academies and there are zero in Rapid," Bertram said. "So the response we have had since we have been out there has been overwhelming. We are excited about that, because the ability to be able to really build up West River basketball is there."

Bertram's West River roots are another reason for the academy's philosophy. Bertram grew up in Colome, a small West River community of around 300 people. He can relate to not being exposed to high-level basketball training and wanted to change that for the future.

"I know what it is like growing up in a small community that is kind of isolated," Bertram said. "You don't have the same opportunities as kids that live in other areas. If we are not providing these things for the kids that live in Colome and Timber Lake and Dupree, nobody else is going to. They don't have those opportunities in their towns. It's just really important for me to do that for those kids."


Then there's the Native American aspect. Bertram began his coaching career 20 years ago at Todd County High School, which is located on the Rosebud Indian Reservation. Bertram estimated that 30 percent of the Sacred Hoops players are Native Americans.

"We want to try to be able to provide more opportunities for those kids that are growing up on the reservations that don't have these opportunities, who are some of the best players we have in South Dakota," Bertram said. "But at the same token, we want to be able to provide opportunities for everybody."

They established the Sacred Hoops All Native Girls Teams, which consists of one team in 14U, 15U, 16U and 17U divisions. They'll play at AAU tournaments in Sioux Falls, Minneapolis (twice) and Omaha, Nebraska.

"We formed four AAU teams in which they are going to go play in four major tournaments in the Upper Midwest to get in front of college coaches at these locations and everything is being paid for them," Bertram said.

Bertram is the director of Sacred Hoops, but he's also got a host of coaches to aid with the program. Mitchell and Dakota Wesleyan University graduate Jordan Long assists in all facets of the program. Eldon Marshall (White River), Matt Rama (Red Cloud), Amanda Carlow (Pine Ridge), Jerome Nesheim (Clark/Willow Lake), Brian Dolan (Aberdeen Roncalli) and Paul McVey (Lennox) are among the many coaches in the program.

"We've just strategically tried to place great basketball coaches, who are really passionate about the game and really want to just truly teach kids," Bertram said.

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