Fresno Hoop Dreams

By ELISA NAVARRO, Student Writer

The gym is loud, people are cheering, volunteers are running around and Eric Mayu (2005) says he feels a rush of electricity as he looks around and realizes that his dream has come to life.

In 2008 Mayu opened a gym, and constantly saw people coming together to play basketball. Mayu, who loved basketball throughout his childhood, got the idea of starting a basketball tournament for middle school boys.

Third from right: Eric Mayu

Mayu hosted his first basketball tournament in 2010 at the Goorabian Family Life Center. And since then, has organized a two-day basketball tournament that takes place every third week of November, which provides an amazing opportunity for children in the community.

“We wanted to do something positive around the holiday season for middle school boys in the Fresno area because there’s not a lot of activity that goes on and that happens at that level, so being able to facilitate something, on a level that guys are able to compete was our goal,” said Mayu.

Neal Howard, Mayu’s business partner, said, “It energizes us too because when you think of doing the tournament all day and all of the things that have to go into it. I don’t even worry about that stuff because I’m energized for the whole thing! I’m excited to be there!”

The tournament started with six teams and has grown to host up to 10 teams, with over 400 participants throughout the years. Aside from the yearly tournament, Mayu and Howard have put together fun basketball clinics and have even been able to have kids train with NBA players.

“We had an NBA Clinic with the Sacramento Kings, so we brought them down the Sacramento youth division down to the Boys & Girls Club in the Augustas Center to be able to learn skills,” said Mayu.

“It was one of those situations where it just evolved into something bigger than me. Neal came along to help facilitate and consult because I was trying to do a lot. I tried to do everything — referee, score keep, and play! Neal sat with me and told me I couldn’t do everything so we started a plan. We wanted to do something that would leave some grassroots in the community.”

Mayu and Howard, along with six board members, are currently working on establishing the CenCal Sports Non — profit organization, which will continue to provide many opportunities for children in the Fresno community.

“Right now we are getting ready to have our push. We are working on our general liability, and it’s been fun because we are able to do something with the youth and see that blossom into more stuff in the future,” said Mayu.