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Check Out The Hoopers Collective’s Story

Today we’d like to introduce you to The Hoopers Collective. Them and their team share their story with us below:

Sarah Porter and Mai-Loni Henson have known each other for a while after playing against each other in both high school and college. They played in the same league in high school, Mai-Loni played at La Jolla Country Day (2016), and Sarah played at Horizon Christian Academy (2014). Mai-Loni then went on to play at the University of Washington and graduated with her bachelor’s in Public Health in 2020. Sarah went on to play at Ole Miss. After her freshman year, she transferred to UC Santa Barbara and graduated with her bachelor’s in 2018. With an extra year of eligibility, she transferred to play a graduate year at the University of Utah and graduated with her master’s in Education in 2019. They both reconnected after college and shared passions and ideas on what they can do to help build the culture of women’s basketball in our city, San Diego. So much talent has come out of our city, like Candice Wiggins, Kelsey Plum, DiJonai Carrington, Charde Houston, and many playing collegiately. In knowing the talent, they started their own brand called “The Hoopers Collective,” with the intent of providing a court where elite high school, college, and pro-athletes can play in pick-up games during their off-season to stay in shape, connect and empower one another. San Diego lacks this space for female hoopers, so most women have to play in co-ed pick-up runs. While there are women’s leagues, it is nice to have a place where players don’t have to commit to a team or a schedule but can play freely and connect with new players each week. That’s what makes “The Hoopers Collective” unique is that players can come hoop without having to meet coach’s expectations or play in a system. It is truly a space where players can work on their game and not have to think twice about it. 

Both Sarah and Mai-Loni have a solid reputation in San Diego basketball which prompted them to collaborate with goals of bringing excitement to women’s hoops here. They soon added another member of their team, Loli Gomez, to help jumpstart this initiative, and help bring their ideas to life with her experience in event planning and marketing. She is also familiar with the Socal region as a graduate from Edison high school and played D1 basketball at SDSU graduating in 2019 with a Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Arts. Altogether, Sarah, Mai-Loni, and Loli have developed a seamless partnership. So far, they have hosted four sessions and more than doubled our number of participants from the 1st session to the 4th session while gaining traction all throughout San Diego County and even LA. Recently, they just released their first collection of clothing called “The Basics” to help continue to spread and bring awareness to our initiative. 

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way? Looking back, would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
Of course, there have been times that have caused doubt, but consistency and goal setting has helped us push things forward! In the beginning, we weren’t really sure how or where to start, so we used our resources and started networking with coaches, trainers, and players to help identify needs and a target audience, to spark interest, and also receive feedback on how things should be done properly. 

While many players expressed interest, we quickly realized that starting in the summer was difficult due to many people being on vacation. Our first week we had low numbers, but we trusted as the word got out, our numbers would grow and we increased in players each week from there!

As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar, what can you tell them about what you do?

Mai-Loni:
After graduating from college in 2020, my original plan was to hang up my basketball shoes and pursue a career in Nursing but I was presented with the opportunity to play professionally overseas. Now, I’m currently in my 3rd year playing in France and I wouldn’t trade my experience for anything! Not only am I able to play the game that has given me so much, I’m also able to travel and explore new cultures. I originally earned my degree in Public Health from the University of Washington with hopes to become a Nurse but I’ve more recently developed an interest in sports broadcasting and commentating. I’m most proud of the amazing experiences I’ve had that basketball has given me from meeting people with a variety of different backgrounds to traveling the world and playing in Europe. I’ve been playing basketball since I was 5 so basketball has been a part of the majority of my life and has truthfully shaped me into the woman I am today through the ups and downs and life lessons that this game brings.
Sarah:
I am an Education Coordinator at a civil litigation law firm in San Diego, with a demonstrated history of working in the law practice industry.  I helped start-up a new Education Department and we developed a Learning Management System (LMS) within the first year. I specialize in e-learning, onboard new hires, coordinate training for attorneys and staff. Prior to this experience, I earned my M.Ed at the University of Utah where I also played NCAA D1 basketball. Playing D1 basketball was one of my greatest accomplishments. After playing my last game there in 2019, I walked away having learned about hard work, to collaborate with a diverse group of people, and what it means to be a team player. I am looking to switch career paths from the legal field to the sports industry as I am passionate about sports and being a D1 athlete is one of my greatest accomplishments. I want to continue to help market the women’s game and grow the culture of the sport in San Diego through platforms like The Hoopers Collective.
Loli:
Loli Gomez, a real estate expert in Southern California, assists individuals and investors locate income producing assets for their next acquisition. She also assists business owners locate or diversify their portfolio which best suits their business operations. Loli specializes in multifamily, retail and general commercial sales. Also a member of PWR YPN (Young Professionals Network), she leads through the committee engaging in the community of peers. Ms. Gomez graduated with her Bachelor’s Degree in Liberal Arts with concentrations in Communication, Philosophy and Recreation and Tourism from San Diego State University. During her time at San Diego State, Loli also competed collegiately on the Women’s Basketball Team graduating in 2019 with Student Athlete Honors. Growing up a Student-Athlete has enabled Loli to maximize her resiliency and dedication daily during her Real Estate transactions. This knowledge, matched with her grasp of client satisfaction and product specialty have provided her with valuable skills she will use in negotiations. Loli energetically acknowledges each client’s criteria and possesses the distinctive ability of creating what they are pursuing into a possession. I’m most proud of my ability to connect with others and collaborate in different facets. I separate myself from others thru my resilience dedication & genuine personality in everything I do!

What do you think about happiness?
It is very fulfilling bringing a group of women come together to play the game we love. The support and love shown to us from friends and family is what keeps us going. The players that show up each week, ready to bring their best and leave each session with gained interest to come back and return with other players they have personally invited is truly exciting. This is only the very beginning for us, and we have so many goals set for the future that we are so excited about that helps put San Diego hoops on the map! 

Contact Info:

  • Instagram: @thehooperscollective


Image Credits

Taylor Donohue
Jeff Flores

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