Reaching the pinnacle with Pinnacle Hoops

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Used with permision from Lexi Nishimura

Pinnacle Hoops, a non-profit organization founded by seniors Jonathan Fu, Jeffrey Su and Vikram Thirumaran, has trained more than 250 students and raised more than $30,000 to support the athletic programs of schools in underrepresented areas.

Susanna Tang

To seniors Jonathan Fu, Jeffrey Su and Vikram Thirumaran, every child has a personal pinnacle, and it is their job to help children reach it. Pinnacle Hoops, a non-profit basketball organization founded by the trio, provides a passionate environment for their elementary and middle school students to excel in athletics while also having fun and improving their character.

The idea that was casually brought up during a basketball practice among Fu, Su and Thirumaran has since been carried out and registered as a 501(c)(3) organization in October 2020. Throughout the past two years, Pinnacle Hoops has served more than 250 students and raised more than $30,000 to fund the athletic programs of underprivileged schools. 

“All three of us have been through the elementary and middle school basketball systems,” Thirumaran said. “We understand that it’s tough for parents to get their children into basketball because of huge commitments in money and time, so we wanted to provide kids in our area who just want to have a taste of basketball with easily-accessible, introductory-level training.” 

While a majority of coaches at Pinnacle Hoops are Lynbrook’s varsity basketball players, since February 2021, the organization has also expanded its recruitment to other local schools. Their process of recruitment involves evaluating each coach on their experience in basketball and ability to coach and interact with young children, in order to ensure that they will be a positive influence on the students.

“We were all in the position of these students before, looking up to our coaches and other players who were older than us,” Fu said. “Now, we want to be role models for the next generation of athletes to look up to.”

Pinnacle Hoops offers an array of training sessions: one-on-one training, small-group training and various camps throughout the year. These sessions are usually held in local community spaces, such as Calabazas Park and Miller Middle School, and are open to all grades from kindergarten through eighth grade of any skill level.

“We just hope to help children reach their own pinnacle. This doesn’t mean we’re going to make the next NBA star — it means we’re going to help children shine in whatever aspect of their life they want to pursue.””

— Vikram Thirumaran, Co-founder and coach

They also partner with schools in disadvantaged areas by offering after-school group training sessions for students and donating all profits from regular camps and clinics to their athletics programs. Pinnacle Hoops is currently in a partnership with ACE Charter Schools — a school district in east San Jose with students who come from low-income families of color. Twice a week, two to five coaches visit ACE Inspire Academy, one of the district’s schools, to host group training sessions with approximately 20 students each. These sessions take place immediately after the school day ends, allowing the students to conveniently walk out of their classrooms, drop their backpacks and play some basketball.

“We see these local schools with kids who love basketball, but some of them don’t have access to common equipment and opportunities like we do,” Su said. “We were once their age with the same passions as them, but we were lucky enough to have the support we needed. We want to be able to provide the same support to these children because it’s heartbreaking to see them not being able to enjoy what they love.”

Being free after a long day of school, the students are always full of energy. Coaches strive to maintain the chaotic and fun energy by finding a common ground with the students to make them feel comfortable, while also emphasizing the importance of discipline. 

“We want them to have fun,” Thirumaran said. “We want them to be kids.”

One-on-one training sessions are tailored to the needs of specific students and are slightly more rigorous than group-training sessions, which are coordinated to allow kids to just have fun by incorporating games and teamwork activities. 

“The kids at Pinnacle Hoops are so enthusiastic,” junior and coach Manasa Gudapati said. “I can tell that they are really motivated and want to better themselves at basketball. Just being surrounded by that kind of energy also motivates me to grow.”

To many coaches, the best part of coaching is not only the observable fun, but also seeing the physical and mental growth of the students. Pinnacle Hoops does not merely teach their students how to play basketball — they also teach students how to be social, open and willing to work as a team. Coaches have seen many shy students at their first few sessions who have grown to be outspoken and active; they hope these students can carry the energy and confidence they gained at Pinnacle Hoops throughout their lives.

As Fu, Su and Thirumaran prepare to graduate, they are looking to pass on Pinnacle Hoops to younger coaches who exhibit characteristics of future leaders so that they can continue to make a positive impact on their community. 

“We just hope to help children reach their personal pinnacle,” Thirumaran said. “This doesn’t mean we’re going to make the next NBA star — it means we’re going to help children shine in whatever aspect of their life they want to pursue.”