In a converted warehouse in Naperville, former NBA player Fred Jones throws a basketball at a giant touchscreen, trying to hit moving green circles that explode when he connects with them, like a “Space Invaders “in modern times.
The video game-like drill is part of a passing drill at his new basketball training facility, Shoot 360.
“If I had that, I feel like it would have extended my career or made me a lot better,” said Jones, who played seven years in the NBA and won the 2004 Slam Dunk Contest.
His new venture aims to train the next generation of hoops. The state-of-the-art interactive facility will open Saturday from 10 a.m. at 2021 Corporate Lane, Suite 140, with a ribbon cutting, raffle, and opportunity for community members to experience the training stations.
While Shoot 360 is open to all ages, the majority of its members are between the ages of 8 and 15 and aspire to take their games to the next level. “Our sweet spot is kids trying to make their college basketball teams,” Jones said.
Shoot 360 was founded about ten years ago in the Pacific Northwest. It now has 22 locations across the country, including several supported by current or former NBA players.
Five years ago, Jones opened a franchise near his hometown of Indianapolis, where he played most of his NBA career with the Pacers. He wanted to expand to other parts of the Midwest, including Chicago, and said Naperville was exactly the type of community he was looking for. Shoot 360 would eventually like to have four or five locations around Chicagoland.
The gym has shooting cages – similar to baseball batting cages – with nets around the hoop and a “gun” that throws the ball back at you. They also have screens that display stats on the arc and depth of your shots and allow you to take on players in other locations from a distance.
“You always get feedback on every shot to try to make you the best shooter you can be,” Jones said as he emptied the baskets at the station. “So it’s almost like muscle memory. You try to figure out exactly what the best shot is and how you do it.
Then there are the skill training stations with the giant touch screens to perfect your ball handling and passing. And full-size basketball courts to practice what you’ve learned.
Shoot 360 will be staffed with personal trainers and host various basketball classes, including a Wednesday night practice clinic with the DePaul University men’s basketball coach.
We offer short and long term memberships and also welcome walk-ins. People can do their first training there for free.
Jones said Shoot 360’s goal is to help develop the leaders of tomorrow, both on and off the field.
“What matters to kids is not just how good they are getting at basketball, but just seeing their confidence levels increase,” he said. “We talk to them more about life than about basketball. It’s about giving that self-esteem and encouraging them to be good people.
Two young women who train at the Indiana facility recently earned basketball scholarships to the University of Michigan, while another member is heavily recruited from schools nationwide, Jones said.
“We have that, that’s great, but just as important is the kid that’s on his college team. We get the same win out of it,” he said. “Each child is on their own journey, so we just want to help them on their journey.
Giles Bruce is a freelance writer for the Naperville Sun.