Cadet Hoops Connects with Carteret Community
Coach Brian Prioleau, Founder/Director of Cadet Hoops Basketball
& Katrena and Coach Donte
When Brian Prioleau walked off the court after his first season as the founder/director of Cadet Hoops, a not-for-profit basketball program for kids in Carteret, New Jersey, he thought he had made an impact.
The first day he had 16 kids show up on a cold February morning wanting to learn how to play basketball, and, most importantly to Prioleau, gain a love for the sport. By the time the program ended in early May, the group had grown to 67 kids from the fourth to the eighth grade. But it wasn’t until Prioleau had a chance encounter with one of his students at the park after the program had ended that he truly believed what was possible. Isabel, a nine year-old girl, who had never played basketball before being in Cadet Hoops, caught the eye of Prioleau that day. With a big smile on her face, she was diligently working on dribbling techniques she had learned from Prioleau and his coaches.
“I felt excitement,” said Prioleau, 41, who played basketball at Pace University in New York and has worked in Wall Street for the past 20 years. “It’s about leaving an imprint. When I saw Isabel bouncing that basketball, I knew it couldn’t be just her who had benefitted from the program.”
Since there was no recreational basketball program in Carteret, Prioleau, who has lived in the town for 18 years, recognized a need to bring this diverse community together through the game that has meant so much to his life. In 2016, Prioleau planted the first seeds for the program, as he likes to say, and finally this year, he was ready to open the doors to the gym. He partnered up with the Carteret Recreation Department, an organization that provided him with a gym and a support network within the community. The rest was all Prioleau, who found volunteer coaches, developed a curriculum, organized every aspect of what needed to be done for basketball to be played. Of course, he was the head coach. He estimates that he spends over 20 hours a week during the season, all on a volunteer basis.
Many of the kids started with little or no basketball background. What they did bring was an enthusiasm to learn.
“She absolutely loved it,” said Siobhan Mahoney, a mother of a 10-year-old girl in the program. “Coach Brian had an effortless ability to teach these kids in a way that they enjoy what they are learning, even when it’s difficult. You can see he makes each of them feel good about their individual journeys.”
Prioleau, who won multiple state championships as a high school player in Connecticut, wanted the Carteret kids to have their own special taste of basketball. He even named the Carteret program the same name as his beloved high school team: the Cadets. His goal was to instill the values that he had learned along the way as a student and an athlete.
“It’s my passion,” said Prioleau, who also works for the Big East Basketball Conference and for Seton Hall basketball. “When you do something that you love, it’s never work.”
As for the future, Prioleau wants to include the community even more while ramping up the basketball part of the program. Currently players from the Carteret High School boys and girls varsity teams serve as volunteer coaches, including his son Donte. His fiancée, Katrena, also has been a key contributor helping behind the scenes and serving as volunteer coach. Getting as many people involved in Cadet Hoops is what drives Prioleau. On the last day of the program, the gym was packed with kids of all ages, parents, and members of the community.
“It’s my way to be authentic and leave a lasting impression,” said Prioleau. #
For more information on how to be a part of Cadet Hoops, please visit CadetHoops.com.
In addition to being the Sports Editor of Education Update, Mike Cohen is the Founder/Director of Throwback Sports (a sports and educational program for children of all abilities). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.