YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Court In Session

With a state-of-the-art black hardwood floor, stereo system and digital scoreboard, the gym at the Point in Hollywood is a hot spot for summer basketball, but it isn't easy to find

July 24, 2007|Jaime Cardenas | Times Staff Writer

So, there is this large tent in the heart of Hollywood.

From the outside looking in, it looks like the home to a private bash, its white roof peeking over a tall fence that is covered in green cloth for privacy and topped by barbed wire.

But inside, pure Hollywood magic seems to take hold as a state-of-the-art basketball court comes to life.

This gymnasium is the star of the Point, and everything about it screams cool, from the high-end lighting fixtures across the ceiling to the black hardwood floor designed to evoke street-ball flair.

And, until recently, a billboard-sized poster of a winged Kobe Bryant made famous in a recent Nike commercial seemed to watch over the entire court. The Nike connection is no surprise given that the company put the Point together, raising the makeshift gymnasium in no time at all.

No expense was spared, making the Point a grandioso experience, what with having Bose stereos throughout the gym and a digital scoreboard.

"To me, when I walk in here, it feels like you're in a celebrity all-star game," said Artesia High product Derek Glasser. "It doesn't feel like just a game. It feels like it's bigger than the game."

Corey McIntosh, who recently transferred from Iowa State to Division III Augustana College in Sioux Falls, S.D., said, "I'm not really a Kobe fan, but I love it. I've been telling everyone that I play in the Kobe Bryant Gym. It's something you can go back and tell your kids."

Both are among the college players taking part in the annual Pro City/Say No Basketball Classic, which runs through Aug. 11 at the Point.

But the place isn't easy to find. On what was once an empty lot on Cahuenga Boulevard between Sunset and Hollywood boulevards, the Point went up six months ago without any markings that would give it away.

And that was the point.

"We wanted it to be word of mouth," said Jaice Prieto, Western Region media relations manager for Nike, which is leasing the three-structure complex. "We want the right people there."

The right people being basketball people.

Like USC's O.J. Mayo, UCLA's Darren Collison, Lakers guard Jordan Farmar, Miami Heat forward Dorell Wright and, of course, Bryant.

"We were very strategic with that," Prieto said. "And this place has taken off on its own."

The rosters of the Say No Classic seem to back that up: Mayo, Davon Jefferson and Taj Gibson of USC; Collison, Lorenzo Mata, Russell Westbrook, Michael Roll and James Keefe of UCLA; Alex Stepheson of North Carolina and Jamal Boykin of California.

Admission to watch them play is free, but seating is limited -- the simple steel bleachers hold only 250 people with room for about 200 more inside one of the adjacent buildings where they can watch a live feed.

The Classic has been around since 1972, and it has evolved into a West Coast summer tradition.

"The best college players that live in L.A. play in it," said Mata, a three-time participant. "This prepares you for the season."

It also prepares players for the NBA, said Say No coordinator Dave Smith. Four Say No alums -- Arron Afflalo, Gabe Pruitt, D.J. Strawberry and Nick Young -- were selected in this year's draft.

That type of track record is not lost on players, including Boykin, who attends summer classes at Berkeley but comes down to play.

"There is a program up there, and that's where my coaches want me to play," the Fairfax High graduate said. "But I feel it's best for me to play here where I feel there is more exposure."

UC Irvine's Darren Fells, who led the Anteaters last season in rebounding, knows he is among the top competition.

"There's a lot of good talent," he said. "Probably NBA material in next year's draft."

Smith, the Say No coordinator, said having players from Divisions I, II and III makes for a good mix.

"Guys really lay it out all on the line; they know that at the end of the day it's all about bragging rights. This is more like a West Coast Rucker Park type of a feel," he said, referring to the New York City playground, "but with all the NCAA rules, sanctions and guidelines that we must abide by."

The Point was also the site of the Summer Pro League, which ended July 15. And Hollywood celebrities get their turn every Thursday through the summer in their own league. In fact, the venue features seven tournaments this summer.

Yet, despite the star power on the court, visitors can't help but notice the tent -- 82 feet long, 50 feet wide and 26 feet high -- and, of course, that black court, which was made by the same company that makes the courts for the NCAA tournament and is supported by an under-layer dubbed Nike Grind that is made of the rubber of old Nike shoes.

Not everyone, however, falls in love with the court.

"It's kind of weird," Mata said. "It's kind of hard to get used to. I had never played on a black court before."

But the color adds to the feel of the Say No Classic, which has strong street-ball roots -- wide-open offense, lots of dunks and reputation-driven battles are what makes this college league so popular.

Los Angeles Times Articles