MEDFORD—There’s a new year-round basketball training outlet in Medford. The LAB, which stands for Life and Basketball, launched with its own facility in November and has grown to 175 kids and five teams.
But those numbers aren’t enough.
Founder Sherman Hunter wants to change the entire structure and perception of high school basketball in southern Oregon.
“Rogue Valley Relevant” is his mantra.
"I want every high school to be so good that whoever comes out of the Rogue Valley most likely will win the state title," he said.
To do that he’ll need help.
For starters, across all classifications, the Rogue Valley has only produced one girls state championship team since 1991 (South Medford in 2012).
Boys teams have fared better, though not significantly—across all classifications only four state titles have come from the Rogue Valley since 2008.
As of now, The LAB mostly consists of elementary and middle school players.
Hunter wants the high schools, from Ashland to Hidden Valley, and their AAU programs to start using him as a resource.
"Right now we don't work together,” he said. “I want to be able to say look, ‘I am that peanut butter and jelly in the middle of that sandwich.’ I want the high schools to say, 'I have three players that I feel are pretty special. Sherm, coach, take those kids and do something with them.'"
Sherman speaks from a position of experience and credentials.
He’s trained, coached and studied the sport for over 20 years. He’s groomed his daughter, Donovyn, who was recently ranked the No. 1 seventh grade basketball prospect in the country. And he has the business of Marty Maurer, a former tight end for Cascade Christian, Oregon State and the New York Giants, whose eighth grade sons train at The LAB.
"I first saw Sherman in the gym a little over a year ago, doing some drills with his daughter and some other girls team he was helping coach. And I said yeah we need some of that. There were some fundamental drills that I hadn't seen before,” he said.
The practices are intense.
The message is he wants to work with the high schools, not against them.
The goal is to make the Rogue Valley relevant for state titles and college scholarships.
"We're not just going there to show up, we're winning. We're beating them,” Hunter said. “Those college coaches will start coming because then they'll realize the talent isn't just limited to northern Oregon, it's in southern Oregon too."