Cathie Anderson

20,000 pick-up basketball enthusiasts go mad for Sac State grads’ mobile app

Sacramento State graduates Donte Morris, left, and Dominic Morris created the Hoop Maps app, so that pickup basketball players could find people who are playing. It was information that the two brothers also wanted on demand.
Sacramento State graduates Donte Morris, left, and Dominic Morris created the Hoop Maps app, so that pickup basketball players could find people who are playing. It was information that the two brothers also wanted on demand. Courtesy of www.hoopmaps.com

Twin brothers Donte and Dominic Morris were looking to pit their basketball skills against some competitors in a pick-up game, so they took to their mobile phones to look for an app that would connect them to potential players.

They came up empty, they said, and they couldn’t have been more surprised.

“We thought it was a great opportunity,” Donte said. “We thought a basketball app would take off because it’s accessible to almost everybody … We said, ‘You know what? We’re entrepreneurial. This would be a new task, a new field, a new challenge.’ We just decided to take a crack at it.”

The two Sacramento State business school grads, both 28, started offering their Hoop Maps app in June 2016 on the iTunes store, but it didn’t really take off until earlier this month, after CBS Sacramento did a story on the Morrises during the NCAA playoffs. It sparked other coverage from Blavity.com and TechCrunch. They also report getting plenty of social media shares.

Before the CBS Sacramento story, the Morrises said, they had 1,000 users. Now they have roughly 20,000 users in Australia, Asia and North America – all looking to learn when and where they can meet up with others for a little roundball.

The surge of activity has provided validation, said Donte, who didn’t know anything about programming an app when 2016 started. He decided to pay $300 to take a boot camp at Sacramento’s Hacker Lab to learn the code he needed to create a mobile app.

“I went to … HackerLab, and I took a bootcamp class, read books and watched YouTube videos,” Donte said. “I taught myself to build the first prototype of the app. I thought, ‘If I’m going into technology, I need to know the language. I need to know the landscape. I need to know how things work because, if not, we’re going to be handicapped and relying on other people.’ 

Donte spent several hours on coding every day after work. He and Dominic said they have plans to make Hoop Maps more robust with extra features for subscribers and daily deals for basketball enthusiasts. …

A merchant dream: New Oak Park retailer Ruebi Jimenez told me she feels as though she’s always had merchant blood in her veins, a heritage she said comes from her paternal grandmother, Estrella, who sold her wares at a flea market.

“My grandmother was a seamstress, and she also was a peddler in the Casablanca flea market,” Jimenez said. “When she came to the States, that’s how she made her living. She went to flea markets and flipped things. She spoke six or seven different languages – French, Spanish, English and a little Yiddish. She was able to communicate with many different people. I remember, as a young girl, going to the flea market with her every single weekend and hearing her talk all these languages.”

Jimenez, 36, ended up studying anthropology at UC Santa Cruz and thought about going to graduate school. But as she weighed the $90,000 in tuition against the idea of opening her own shop, she said, her heart came down on the side of running her own brick-and-mortar store. Her shop, Miel, has brought together her love of anthropology and retail, she told me.

“It keeps me engaged with women crafters,” Jimenez said. “I’m interested in keeping community. I have probably five or six local makers in my shop. There’s a woman in Tahoe Park who makes the candles. A woman in Oak Park makes the cards. A gentleman in Oak Park makes many of the toys, and he also makes cutting boards and bowls.”

Miel, located at 3324 Broadway, is right near two other retail stores featured in this column last year: Janell Lacayo’s Nectar jewelry store and Josie Lee’s RIRE boutique.

Cathie Anderson: 916-321-1193, @CathieA_SacBee

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