Hobbton High School basketball coach Alfonza Hooper was chosen Sampson County Basketball coach of the year by local sportswriters after his most successful as Hobbton’s head coach.
“I’m just so grateful and honored to be here as varsity boys’ basketball coach here at a Hobbton,” commented Hooper in a recent interview. “I have so many people to thank. First of all, I have to thank God because he makes it all possible. Tim Pope has always been my mentor. He got me into coaching many years ago. It’s just really been an honor this year to coach the varsity boys.
“Every day the kids came to practice and worked hard. They wanted to accomplish something here. As the season went on, we went through some adversity. We had some good times and some bad times. When you’re coaching basketball, that’s going to happen.”
Hooper continued, “Mid-season we had a team talk about everybody being all in and that was our chance. Before and after every ball game, everybody had to be in. In other words, buy into the system; buying to playing hard on defense; buying into encouraging a teammate; buying into being a team player. In the second half of the season, we won 7 of 8 games.”
Hooper started coaching basketball at Hobbton 5 years ago. His first 2 years were coaching JV basketball. The boys job came open and a new principal was coming in and Hooper asked for the coaching job. “I went to Miss (Jennifer) Daughtry and laid out a 3-year plan for the team. She gave me a chance,” he continued.
His record for the 2015-2016 basketball season was 12-14. “Most people don’t realize it but my first season we went 0-22. It was a tough year as we started a lot of sophomores.The second year during the summer we went to basketball camp at N. C. State. We won 6 ball games the second year and we were 7th out of 8 teams in the conference. I told her we would be competitive the first year and turn it around in the second year,” Hooper said.
“Going into year 3, we went to basketball camp again and I knew we were going to be successful. We had a lot of players returning. During the basketball camp, we played 30 games. We wound up 5th in the conference this year. We made it to the second round of the state playoffs for the first time since 2008-09,” Hooper commented.
“One of the season’s highlights was a triple overtime win at Princeton. It was a real exhausting ball game. Our most exciting games of the season, there were 2, was the win over Lakewood in the Christmas tournament at Union when we came from 17 points down to win on a buzzer shot by Collin King. The second game was Neuse Charter in the first round of the playoffs. Neuse Charter had beat the pants off us both times finishing No. 1 in the conference. I always thought we could play with them but they beat us by 20 points one time and 30 points the second time. We went to their place in the first round of the playoffs and actually beat them by 2 points,” said Hooper.
Looking toward next season, Hooper said, “We lost 6 seniors, 4 of which were starters. I think we have some good prospects coming off the JV team. We are going to plug them in. The bar has already been set high. We are looking to continue to climb that ladder and finish in the top half of the conference. We are going to work hard this summer continuing to do what we have done as far as going to team camp. We played 30 games last year and are looking forward to do the same this summer. We will get ready for another grueling basketball season. It will be a lot of hard work but I think the kids are up for the challenge and I am too.”
He finished up saying, “I have to also thank my family. They don’t see much of me during basketball season. I have to also thank the parents and the Hobbton community. Without the parents’ support you can’t go far. I would also like to thank our “Black Squad”, the cheering section made up of students.
“They cheered for us at ball games. We actually took a fan bus to Camden County for the second round of the playoffs. They make a difference when you have friendly noise to cheer you on.”