New backboards

Cheryl Luell of The Healing Center, Jennifer Valenzuela, recreation manager for the city of Needles and Nikole Frame, recreation leader (r to l) show off the new glass backboards Luell bought for the Needles Recreation Center gym.

NEEDLES — “Mom, we want to stay and play. They’ve got NBA backboards now!”

Jennifer Valenzuela, recreation manager for the city of Needles, still gets a chuckle out of having heard that from some young basketball players at the Needles Recreation Center recently.

And while they’re not actually NBA backboards, they’re certainly new: a donation from The Healing Center at Needles Highway and K Street. They’re also made of glass like those used by the National Basketball Association: an important distinction in looks and performance. Standard at the college and high school levels today, anyone who can recall shooting on both will tell you that besides being much quieter basketballs behave differently when bouncing off the unyielding glass material; a factor that may be seen to affect technique when future Mustangs take to the court.

The gymnasium of the rec center underwent some major revisions over the summer, getting a new floor, eliminating the flaking finish and resurfacing the ceiling and walls, new paint and more.

The old backboards, Valenzuela recalled, “looked ratty.”

Enter THC’s Cheryl Luell, a businesswoman with a flair for philanthropy and an abiding interest in the affairs of the community which makes her a regular at meetings of the Needles City Council. “Cheryl was attending a meeting and said she’d donate new backboards,” Valenzuela recalled. “She also bought the drop-downs for the peewees so they even work for the littlest players.”

The drop-down hoop sets mount lower than standard, making it easier for tykes to nail a bucket.

How many children are affected? In the ongoing youth basketball program there are 11 teams of little ones with more than a hundred players; 20 teams for the youth basketball league that accounts for nearly 200 players; and more than 200 that attend the joint after school program of the city and Needles Unified School District.

Luell indicated she was very interested in the well-being of the community’s youth and was fond of organized recreation programs, recalling her membership in a Boys and Girls Club during her Wisconsin childhood. She’s also known for her generosity, particularly where youngsters are concerned.

Visit the Needles Recreation Center at 1705 J St., call 760-326-2814. Visit The Healing Center recreational marijuana dispensary at 1400 Needles Hwy., Ste. 100, call 760-447-2663, send email to

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