Hoop School Holds Court at Fitness Club

OAKLAND – A tiny 8-year-old boy jump-squats to the left, then the right, in Triple Threat basketball class Monday at 24 Hour Fitness, holding a basketball seemingly larger than his head. When he falters, 6-foot-8 former Cal star Leon Powe of the Boston Celtics gives him a hand.

It’s all in a day’s work for San Leandro-based Triple Threat Academy, a basketball school that has trained scores of well-known players, including Powe. Thanks to a new partnership with San Ramon-based 24 Hour Fitness Worldwide, Triple Threat students will train on the fitness chain’s courts from now on.

Camp co-owner Tony Freccero (center) leads the charge during warm-up drills. (D. Ross Cameron - Staff)

“Gym time is difficult to get in the Bay Area,” said Tony Freccero, a former professional player who founded Triple Threat in 2002 and is an assistant coach at Oakland’s highly ranked Bishop O’Dowd High School.

“We work with a lot of kids, but we never had consistency. Now, we’ll be in the gym every day. We’re really excited,” said Freccero, who runs the school with business partner Lou Richie, also an O’Dowd assistant coach.

Richie and Freccero, who played basketball professionally in Australia, also coach the Oakland Soldiers, an AAU team whose alumni include Powe and Cleveland Cavaliers players LeBron James and Drew Gooden. “Once the buzz gets out about the new arrangement, I expect we’ll get more students because of the increased consistency,” Freccero said. At Freccero’s command, about 50 students between the ages of 8 and 22, joined by former University of California, Berkeley basketball teammates Ayinde Ubaka and Powe, sprint from one end of the court to the other, then run backward across the court.

Next, Powe takes the lead, leaping over a series of about 20 orange cones placed two feet apart across the floor. “Tony and Lou use athletes to demonstrate the moves,” said Joe Irvine of Cloverdale, who drove 100 miles to the event so two of his three daughters could work out. “I’ve done other camps, and these guys put it together better or as well as any I’ve seen. They’re the real deal.” Suddenly, Freccero booms, “Ready! Set! Go!” Unfazed by the giants surrounding them, Irvine’s daughters, 10-year-old Sadie and 12-year-old Sara, bounce over the orange cones as though on springs, ponytails flying. They are two of six girls participating in the evening’s workout, which focuses on training, not shooting hoops or competing.

Troy Croghan, 24 Hour Fitness’ director of team sports, watches approvingly from the sidelines. “24 Hour Fitness was founded in San Leandro 24 years ago, and we are a staple in this community,” he said. “This is an ideal place for us to launch our new basketball training partnership with Triple Threat and continue to serve our East Bay members and their children with a safe and affordable basketball program.”

The two-hour workouts, which cost $25 each or $110 for a month of unlimited training, will be held Monday, Wednesday and Saturday at the High Street 24 Hour Fitness in Oakland; and Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday at the San Leandro Bayfair facility, he said. Students can register at http://www.triplethreatonline.com.

And 24 Hour Fitness plans to branch out into other such agreements with local sports schools in other states, Croghan said. “The families and students at Triple Threat all get a month’s free trial membership,” he added. “We’d like it if they sign up, of course, but what this is really about is reaching out to the community.” As Britta, 8, the Irvines’ third daughter, clusters with her parents, Sara and Sadie come flying off the court for a rest period, though neither shows any sign of needing one. Sara, a fifth-grader who plays on the seventh-grade team in Cloverdale, said she likes the workouts “because they are really hard and challenging.” “I like how they keep pushing you,” agreed Sadie, who also plays on a team. “They never give up, and they always help you.”