Name of business: Basketball at Backyard
Type of business: Competitive basketball leagues (7-14) and instruction (all ages)
Where: Backyard Sports Academy, 3212 W. Main St., mobile
History of Business: It’s not every day you can get individual basketball instruction from a former All-American player. But at Basketball at Backyard, which operates out of Turlock’s Backyard Sports Academy complex, young players can do just that.
Austin Keaton, a former Pitman High point guard who went on to play collegiately at Culver-Stockton College in Canton, Mo., where he garnered NAIA All-American status, has owned and operated Basketball at Backyard since 2020. He runs competitive leagues for players age 7 to 14 and offers individual instruction for players of all ages.
Leagues cost $250 per player and run for 10 weeks (two weeks of skill-set evaluations and an eight-week season), culminating with a four-team playoff for the league championship. T-shirts are awarded to the league champions.
Individual instruction runs $60 per hour — or $50 an hour for a group — and Keaton handles all aspects of teaching.
“Just loving the game and growing up around the game and playing it and watching it has allowed me to learn different things,” said Keaton, who also played basketball and baseball at Modesto Junior College. “Nowadays, you’ve got to see the entire floor, from the 1 position to the 5 position. You can’t be one dimensional.”
Keaton, a 2008 graduate of Pitman, started on the varsity for four years. He knows what a difference finely honed skills can make for a high-school aged player. Recently, he’s worked with Central Catholic’s 6-6, 200-pound forward Wesley Payne, who averaged 14.2 point per game for the Raiders last season as a junior and helped the team reach the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III final and a berth in the NorCal tournament.
“Wesley went from a kid who was dribbling the ball off his knees to dribbling the ball between his legs, crossing over and dunking,” said Keaton.
Basketball at Backyard holds league play three nights a week for three different age groups — 7-9, 10-11 and 12-14 — with about 60 players participating each night.
“I just wanted to give kids a place to play year-round, whether they’re a big-time basketball player or just parents who want an opportunity to keep their kids active,” said Keaton. “it’s a rec league, but it’s competitive. We want kids to learn that you win some and you lose some. I think it's good to teach kids at young age about competition through team sports. It sets them up for a lot of things in life, in my opinion.”