Sitting in his living room, Justin Hoyt (’18) was caught off guard when his grandparents came into the room with an early second birthday gift. Swaddled in festive wrapping, Hoyt didn’t expect that the item he would receive would engulf him for the rest of his life: A basketball.
Living in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania at the time, Hoyt credits his athletic beginnings to his classnates. “I loved [basketball]. All my friends played it so I just played with them. Whenever we were out at recess we would just play outside together,” he said.
It wasn’t all smooth sailing for him. In his first year at ASL in 2014, Hoyt, a freshman at the time, made the JV team. Some weeks later, due to a drop in his grades, there was a mutual decision between the coaching staff and Hoyt’s family that it would be beneficial for both parties to cut him from the team. “I started to drop everything out of my life,” he said. My focus was just to improve my grades, and to practice basketball. That’s it.”
Given his hickup in freshman year, Hoyt acknowledges that perhaps he was a late bloomer with his passion for basketball, but sees no reason why it should hold him back. “I started doing it so much. I played before school started and after school. I found myself packing two sets of basketball clothes for the day, one for before school and one for after,” he said.
At this point, Hoyt realized that he would only get to where he wanted to be, the varsity boys basketball team, by putting in the hours. “Being one of the best in my grade, I thought to myself and said that this is something I can do if I work hard enough for it.”
As an only child in his family, Hoyt feels that “earning respect from his parents” is key to his success. “Not having any siblings makes it harder for me. The way I see it, people who do have a brother and sister have people there to support them, but also to take some of the attention off them,” he said. “In my family, all of the attention is on me.”
Focusing on the team this season, Hoyt understands that the current campaign is one that will require rebuilding, and believes that he plays a pivotal role in doing so. “We had seven seniors leave last year which is a lot of leadership gone. Because this is my second year on the team, I have a bit more of a leadership role. I try to give advice, and take as much as I can from everyone else,” he said.
Hoyt also believes that his hard work has rubbed off on his close friends, who have also dedicated themselves to the sport. “Jordan Koski (’18), for example, had never played basketball until partway through last year,” he said. “Whenever I went in [to practice], I got him to come with me. This year, he tried out for the first time and made the varsity team. I like to think I played a role in that. We both motivate each other to work super hard.”
Following the success of his debut season on the varsity team, Hoyt was advised by the team’s Head Coach Josh Davis to join a summer development program, Global Squad. Hoyt joined the program with intent to improve his jumpshot to a more “automatic” one, but left with an array of improved traits. “When I went to camp, I was playing seven hours a day. Wake up, play two [hours], three [hours] before lunch, and another two [hours] before dinner. It was all day,” he said.
Global Squad also gave Hoyt an opportunity to build initial relationships with college scouts and coaches, which he hopes will help him pave a way for a successful future in basketball. He does, however, have his mind set on helping the varsity boys basketball team win their first ISST championship in 24 years. “I want to win ISST gold and be an All Tournament player. Outside of school, I want to play basketball at a collegiate level,” he said. “For me, it’s a matter of hard work paying off.”