From checkers to chess: HYIQ Basketball taking root03/14/2023 02:37PM ● By Richard Gaw
Photo by Richard L. Gaw Former Kennett High School and West Chester University basketball player Jackson Hyland is the founder of HYIQ Basketball.
By Richard L. Gaw, Staff Writer
“Be more concerned with
your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really
are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.”
― John Wooden, legendary basketball coach
For most young athletes, being the youngest in a family of other athletes is a burden of deficiency, a constant but fruitless climb up an invisible ladder that forever falls a rung beneath those who have come before them.
In the early life of Jackson Hyland, now 26, having two older brothers served as an advantage and a privilege. On the small but full basketball court that stood just outside Hyland’s boyhood bedroom in Avondale, he spent endless hours as the beneficiary of an automatic two-on-two family game – the three Hyland brothers and their father, Steven.
“Being the youngest, it was more about fitting into my brothers’ activities, rather than trying to be them,” Hyland said. “It was focused on trying to beat my brother Spencer and be able to compete with his friends and not feel like the outcast or the younger brother because he has to be, but to be valued in the competition. I tried to remain on the same level as them, with no handouts.”
It was on that court that Hyland began to love the game of basketball – a journey that led him from CYO and recreation leagues, then success in high school and college. Using this same infectious admiration for the sport, Hyland has rolled that emotion into HYIQ, a basketball training company he launched in 2020 that has already attracted nearly 300 young players who want to either improve their game or join in the fun of playing with teammates.
Tailored to local male and female players from kindergarten to college, HYIQ is committed to sharing, teaching and training in order to guide each player to partner his or her skills with the development of self-confidence, both on and off the floor.
At HYIQ, players of varying degrees of talent and experience receive Hyland’s teaching and evaluation through workouts; skills and drills designed to improve shooting, footwork, defense and in-game decision making; opportunities to work alongside other players in pick-up games; and drilled repetition, game-speed competition and the use of film and video technology to monitor progress.
The cerebral feel for the game
There is another component of Hyland’s teaching that is at the core of HYIQ: learning the mental aspects of the game -- skills that when developed can become the intangible that sets a player apart from his or her peers. For Hyland, his early guidepost for appreciating the headier components of the game came from watching Hall of Famer and three-time NBA MVP Larry Bird of the Boston Celtics.
“I idolized Bird for the cerebral feel he brought to the game,” he said. “He wasn’t the most athletic player on the court, but his high basketball IQ gave off a sense that he was playing chess when everyone else was playing checkers. He also had a way of making his teammates better to the point where they won big games and several championships.”
The teaching platform of HYIQ also takes its inspiration to Hyland’s personal success on the court, which after attending several camps and clinics, began to blossom at Kennett High School, where he was a three-year starter for the Blue Demons, served as team captain and scored more than 1,200 points during his career. After graduation, he attended West Chester University, where under head coach Damien Blair he scored more than 1,400 career points, was honored twice as WCU’s men’s basketball player of the year, was named to the first team in the Pennsylvania State Athletic and Eastern College Athletic conferences and led the Golden Rams to three NCAA post-season appearances.
After playing professionally in Plymouth, England in 2019, Hyland, who graduated from WCU with a marketing degree, returned to Chester County in January of 2020, just prior to the start of COVID-19. The formation of HYIQ, Hyland said, stemmed from the level of teaching that he himself did not have access to that some of his peers at WCU enjoyed. It wasn’t just the lack of availability to advanced training, there were no former college basketball players in the southern Chester County area who were sharing what they knew with younger players.
“When I came back home, I began to think, ‘How can I give back, and develop something that I wish I had as a younger player?’” he said. “‘How can I put kids in a different position who love the game just as much as I do and put them in a place where they can learn more about how to become successful not just in basketball, but successful in life?’”
As the pandemic began to settle in, Hyland looked at the same court he played on as a child. In April of 2020, he began HYIQ with an invitation he extended to ten young players to train there.
Three years later, HYIQ has grown to include the formation of a three-on-three recreation league that just wrapped its latest 10-week season in February. Broken down into the Fundamental (4th and 5th graders), Competitive (6th and 7th graders), Advanced (8th and 9th graders) and Middle School girls divisions, the league has grown to more than 200 players.
“It’s a concept where kids can pick their own teammates or they can go to their buddies at school and formulate their own teams,” Hyland said. “After an hour, each player will have played three games. It has been so fun to see how much the players enjoy it, and how they get to replicate some of the moves they see when watching basketball on TV.
“I am here not only to get kids in this league to be better at the game, but also to give them experiences that they can take with them, whether they play in high school or college, or even if they don’t play at all.”
The league is also catching the eye of some of the area’s youth basketball key stakeholders – parents.
“Jackson cares as deeply about the person as he does the player,” said Sean Harvey, the athletic director at Kennett High School and former basketball coach at Oxford Area High School, who also coaches in the HYIQ recreation league. “He really gets to know the kids beyond basketball. He takes a genuine interest in getting to know what motivates them to be the best version of themselves which will lead to success for the players as well as his organization.”
“The Kennett Square area lacks decent public basketball courts, but through Jackson’s three-on-three league, HYIQ has brought a competitive, fun, and exciting basketball experience to this area,” said Kennett Square resident Chris Thompson. “My boys look forward to it all week long because they get to see and play with their friends from all of the surrounding communities.”
For every player who comes to Hyland for coaching there is a different reason for doing so. For some, it is eliminating flaws in a jump shot; for others, it is how to improve the necessary footwork to master a spin move. No matter the player, Hyland designs his teaching according to the person behind the player.
When Kennett Square resident Davis Bland first worked with Hyland in 2020, he was the first to do so. At the time, Bland was a junior at Tower Hill School in Wilmington, and his game suffered from a lack of self-confidence, particularly when it came to shooting.
“Jackson taught me the ‘Goldfish Mentality,’ which says that if you miss a shot, forget what you’ve just done, similar to the way a goldfish forgets what it had experienced during its previous trip around a tank,” said Bland, who just wrapped up his freshman year at Washington College in Maryland, where he played Division III basketball. “Jackson encouraged me to forget my mistakes, because every player makes them. He taught me to trust my work, knowing that if I miss a shot that I have made thousands of times, I am going to make the next one.”
“Everyone has a different personality and a different response to coaching that makes them understand concepts and I maneuver that through who they are,” Hyland said. “Does one player need tough coaching, or does that person need more explanation? I have to look at that kid and build a relationship as a way to understand that this is where they are both as a basketball player and as a person, and it becomes a method of how I slowly move that needle to help them in whatever area they are struggling with.”
While the game of basketball has changed massively in the past several decades, it has done so at the risk of re-emphasizing its various components. Gone are the days when all five players touched the ball on a single possession or operated according to the principle of finding the open man; today’s game is powered more and more by individual accomplishments, as seen in the National Basketball Association.
“The time of possession at which a lot of the star players have control of the ball has increased dramatically,” Hyland said. “If you see Luca Doncic now, he has the ball in his possession for as often as 18 seconds. I think that when kids watch that, they think that is how effective basketball is played.
“I think that has hurt the value of a basic swing pass, because kids get caught with the ball in their hands, trying to decide individually what to do, and consequently, it slows down the time they can continue the flow of the offense.”
In his teaching approach, Hyland continues to stress good habits through repetition while also encouraging them not to lose sight of their individual identity.
“That’s where communication, trust and relationships become important,” he said. “It’s being able to have a tough conversation with someone and tell them that it might be more productive for the team if they were to get the ball out of their hands and cut. You want to have kids look up to guys like Doncic and Jason Tatum, but it’s also about explaining how they can take their individual skills to help their team out while continuing to keep their edge as an individual and find their own success.
“My goal is to continue to provide young players with events, training and leagues that give them a love for the game of basketball – to put these young men and women in a spot where they can use the game of basketball as a tool to continue to grow as a young man and a young woman and to be able to walk out of the gym and say, ‘I felt that someone wants the best for me.’”
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email [email protected].