U.S. Open Basketball Championships a Marquee Event for Coaches Like Imamu Tomlinson
Imamu Tomlinson is an emergency room doctor in Fresno, California, who also runs a related business. Wife Tasha also is a physician, with an independent family practice.
And while their profession keeps them busy, they have a stronger passion in youth basketball.
“A lot of the lessons we learn in life are from sports,” Imamu Tomlinson said. “You know, teamwork, getting along together, supporting your teammates, doing your job, things like that.”
For about the last seven years, the Tomlinsons have run 24/7 Elite, a basketball program in Central California that supplements high school and AAU programs. They will be taking two teams — ninth-grade boys and U13 girls — to the USA Basketball U.S. Open Basketball Championships in Westfield, Indiana, from July 17-21.
The two teams they took to the inaugural USA Basketball tournament a year ago made it to the semifinals of their division. This year, the tournament has expanded from three age brackets to four (U12, U13, ninth grade and 10th grade for boys and girls).
“It was awesome,” Imamu Tomlinson said of last year’s experience. “It was top notch. It was well put together, organized.”
Tomlinson, 46, said waiting to be notified of being in this year’s tournament was a bit stressful, but he was confident his teams had done enough in the qualifying process to earn a return trip, something he is very excited about.
“To play in that facility in Indiana and to play in front of a lot of the USA Basketball coaches and staff,” Tomlinson said. “Last year, we got to play in front of (USA Basketball Youth & Sport Development coach director) Don Showalter, and he obviously has helped to make USA Basketball as good as it is.”
Tomlinson said he got a chance to chat with Showalter last year and knows it is a terrific opportunity for his players to be seen.
“You always have to perform at a high level, because you never know who’s watching,” he said.
The U.S. Open Basketball Championships provide a different alternative for many travel teams. According to Tomlinson, there is a bit more of a formal feel to the USA Basketball event.
“The organization, the way they put everything together, the way they communicated was top notch, above board,” he said. “Not only just connecting with the coaches, but connecting with the players. They had opportunities to do clinics and to work together.
Included in those connections were clinics to help with the basketball skills and a barbecue to aid in social interaction.
“They did a great job of encouraging us to not just stay within our team or our family,” Tomlinson. “We had the barbecue, and you would talk to people from other teams. We came from California and there were teams in New York, and we bonded with them because we met in the middle in Indiana.”
Tomlinson got a little choked up when asked about the impact that had on the players.
“It’s emotional for both of us, because basketball has meant so much in our lives,” he said. “Growing up, I never had that type of opportunity to be in that environment and to play in that high-level facility. It meant a lot for us to be able to give them a chance to do that and compete.”
Since it is a USA Basketball event, there were some requirements of the coaches. All bench personnel must have a USA Basketball coach license as well as abide by the organization’s coaches code of conduct and Safe Sport policies.
“I like that,” Tomlinson said of the additional requirements. “Many events might have some situations where you can just sign up and be a coach. But when you are dealing with kids — young, impressionable people — you want to make sure they have people who have gone through some sort of rigor before strapping up and becoming coaches.”
Tomlinson said the more formal feel helps keep the players disciplined and raises the expectation level of the tournament.
“We as coaches are required to look the part, dress a certain way,” he said. “There’s a certain expectation our players dress and look a certain way and look and behave a certain way. I think that’s super important.”
Another aspect Tomlinson enjoys is the use of international rules. Since it is a USA Basketball tournament, those rules — like the extended 3-point line and 30-second shot clock — can be easily applied.
“I actually wish there was a way to use those rules in other tournaments,” he said.
While he, his wife and the players are looking forward to another trip to Indiana, Tomlinson did have one idea that could augment the experience. He said he would love to see USA Basketball players and personnel from higher levels — whether it be from a U16 national team or higher — to be inspiration for the kids at the U.S. Open Basketball Championships.
“So our players can look at them and say, ‘Wow, I can be like that, they aren’t that far away from me,’” he said.