Isaiah Wright enjoys looking back on the first time he met Roberto Bergersen. The feeble second- grader was in awe that a professional basketball player was standing in the same gym as him.
Wright, now an incoming junior at Borah High, never could have imagined that Bergersen would end up serving a vital role in his life.
I think of him as like a second dad, Wright said. In basketball he helped me a lot with my shot and working out. He also helps me stay humble and pushes me to get better. Basically, he is always there for me.
Many share Wrights story. Bergersen is the face of the youth basketball scene in the Treasure Valley. Between his clinics, camps, academies and traveling teams, Bergersen impacts the lives of hundreds of kids annually. Under his guidance, children learn the fundamentals of basketball. Furthermore, they follow in the footsteps of a man that has committed his life to being a positive influence to youth.
Bergersen took a long, interesting path before settling in Boise. He was a McDonalds All-American and one of the most touted recruits in the state of Washington as a senior. He played in 22 games as a freshman at the University of Washington, but decided to transfer after disagreements with his coach. During a hectic 12-month period, Bergersen attended Midland Junior College (Texas), College of Southern Idaho and Highline Community College (Washington).
I had a long road and there was a lot of stuff in between, it wasnt the easiest road but it was necessary, Bergersen said. I had to go through struggles to mature and grow up.
Although Bergersen knew he could compete at the college level, college coaches werent convinced. He needed to find a coach that trusted him.
He followed his former high school coach, Ed Boyce, who became an assistant coach at Boise State. Bergersen joined the Broncos for the 1996-1997 season. For the next three years, Bergersen produced one of the most prolific careers in Boise State history, averaging 17.3 points per game.
This was a deal when I realized this was someone I could trust, Bergersen said. I had been to three different schools (in one year) and I was kind of lost, knowing there was someone there I could trust was an easy decision for me.
Bergersen was a second-round selection by the Atlanta Hawks in the 1999 NBA Draft. His draft rights were traded to the Portland Trail Blazers. For the next 10 years, Bergersen pursued his dream to play in the NBA. This journey included three NBA training camps, three stints with the Idaho Stampede of the NBA Development League and nine international teams in six countries.
Meanwhile, in the offseason he began to host youth summer camps in Boise. As the camps began to increase in popularity, Bergersens priorities began to shift. While coaching his sons U12 basketball team, he realized it was time to step down as a player at age 35 in 2009.
My days and nights were trying to figure what I could do to make them better more than what I could do to make myself better, Bergersen said. And that was basically telling me to move on. I found something in my life that was more important.
Bergersen launched his first basketball camp in 2002, Roberto Bergersens Hoop Dreams Camp. Along with Boyce, they hoped to bring prominence and accessibility to basketball in the Treasure Valley.
We did summer camps and tried to make a difference, said Bergersen. We noticed the basketball culture in Boise wasnt at a high level, and we were hoping to change that culture a little bit by doing summer camps.
It began with camps, but quickly expanded to academies, which were lengthy camps that had between eight to 12 sessions. From there, the students who were enrolled in the academies wanted to compete in out-of-state tournaments, which led to the creation of travel teams. The program continued to grow with the expansion of childrens clinics.
In 2007, Bergersen, Boyce and Ben Reed, a local AAU basketball director, created the official Hoops Dream Basketball Club. Bergersen oversees all operations as the current director. Hoop Dreams Basketball Club offers programs for children of all ages from Lil Dreamers clinics for kindergarteners to traveling high school teams, featuring premier prep talent in the valley.
Bergersen is also the head coach for the eighth-grade and fifth-grade boys teams, where his two oldest sons play. Although Bergersen spends much of time as director and coaching two teams, he manages to find time to make an impact on every kid in the program.
Robertos passion for the kids you can never question, said Kelly Terashima, whose two sons are Hoop Dreamers. He has had a huge impact. Both of our boys have learned life lessons from him. Where Roberto sets himself apart is he always has an open door. He teaches them a lot of self-discipline.
Hoop Dreams serves between 400 to 500 kids annually, making it the largest youth basketball club in the state. Considering it has been an official club for only five years, that number could continue to grow. For Bergersen, being a part of Hoop Dreams provides much more than learning the fundamentals of basketball.
I hope we can provide more opportunities and basketball experiences for kids in the valley, Bergersen said. If more kids can have basketball experiences, the more they will learn about themselves and life. I know that for a fact. I know that is what basketball can provide. I learned that first-hand.
Through Hoop Dreams, Bergersen is creating stability for the youth, the exact thing he was missing. After going to four colleges in two years, Bergersen was lost. He needed a place that provided an opportunity to grow. Bergersen found it in Boise.
The community of Boise has been great to me, Bergersen said. Having three years to come and have stability, Boise gave me a lot. I am glad I can be a part of the community and I am glad it helped me. It is reciprocal. That is how life works.