You can probably guess by the name what the Hoop Group's Pitt Jam Fest is all about. The phrase "basketball for days" would also be an acceptable term! The event brings over 470 teams from 20 different states and 250 college coaches to Pittsburgh for a three-day event, creating a fun and exciting atmosphere for everyone. All are welcome to come!
As one of the largest basketball instruction organizations in the world, the company is bound to have a Pittsburgh tie in there somewhere, right? Look no further than Robert Morris University's men's basketball head coach, Andrew Toole.
Before Robert Morris, Toole was the Director of Rebounds, a 28,000 ft2 facility where players were able to focus on their development and is currently the headquarters for Hoop Group. In this role, he was in charge of all the programming – from running camps to birthday parties, he did it all.
Toole was also the Director of Eastern Invitational Basketball Clinic, an exposure camp that Hoop Group runs that athletes attend with the intent to be recruited. In this role, Toole began networking with coaches and various contacts, learning a different side of the sport. It was through these experiences he realized not only did he want to become a Division I coach, but that his time with Hoop Group had provided him with the skills he needed to accomplish this goal.
Hoop Group also gave Toole his first real experience in the city of Pittsburgh, which may or may not have included getting lost in the city a few times. (Come on, we'be all been there!) When asked why he thought that the Pitt Jam Fest event does so well in Pittsburgh, there were a few different reasons that came to his mind. The geography of Pittsburgh is a central location to most of the teams – a majority are from Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, the East Coast and the Mid-Atlantic region – so the proximity makes Pittsburgh an attractive host city.
Also a factor is Pittsburgh's beautiful and green convention center. When the Pitt Jam Fest moved to the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, Toole said this was a major factor in the growth of the event. The large location provided a new level of excitement and energy for the players and their cheering section.
Imagine the anticipation of walking into a huge convention center with 76,500 square feet of space completely covered in pristine basketball courts just waiting to be played on – it added a whole new level of awe to the Pitt Jam Fest event.
While Pittsburgh has become a prime location for the Pitt Jam Fest, the city has also become home for Toole and his family. Admitting he did not know how great the city was until he arrived, Toole appreciates the feeling of living in a big city with a small-town feel. They were welcomed with open arms and quickly realized the pride that Pittsburghers take in everything their city does. The positive energy and vibe helped the Tooles feel at home and excited to live in Pittsburgh.
Then there's the obvious (well, to locals at least...) – Pittsburgh is the city of champions. With the Atlantic 10 Men's Basketball Championships recently hosted here, March Madness Rounds 1 and 2 coming in 2018 and 2022 along with DIII women's basketball championships in 2022, Toole feels the support for basketball in Pittsburgh has grown. The recent NCAA bids awarded to Pittsburgh coupled with the rise in popularity of local university basketball programs has generated excitement, success, and more involvement in the sport.
With the success both Toole and the Pitt Jam Fest have had in Pittsburgh, we can't wait to see what the future holds for basketball in the Steel City!