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Wheatland's Trujillo is reinventing the game
Standout making waves with invention
For the first time in his life, James Trujillo is playing on a court that won't require any
The hours he spent working on his jump shot with Dad in front of his Plumas Lake home, miles he logged playing in hundreds of basketball games with AAU teams during summers and countless repetitions he put in to rehabilitate a surgically repaired foot don't matter much in his current endeavor.
Though used to playing in front of hostile fans after three seasons in the Butte View League with Wheatland High, Trujillo now faces scrutiny from the top minds in sports product manufacturing.
Trujillo's abilities on the hardwood won't be assessed; the 17-year-old is going to have to convince one of the biggest sporting good retailers in America to manufacture his invention.
After surviving a field of 3,800 applicants, Trujillo has been selected as one of five finalists to pitch his prototype, the "Dunk-N," to Sports Authority, part of the company's Move It Challenge.
The Move It Challenge, a contest sponsored by both Sports Authority and the youth innovation website By Kids, For Kids, asked students 18 years old and younger to build a prototype for a new game or training device.
The field of 3,800 entries across all 50 states was whittled down to 15 semifinalists and after promoting his product at Sports Authority's headquarters in Denver last weekend, Trujillo was selected as a finalist. Two of the finalists are from Maryland, one is from New York and the other Colorado.
The grand prize winner will receive $10,000 and an exclusive licensing agreement with Sports Authority.
Trujillo's "Dunk-N" falls under the category of training device.
The prototype is a basketball hoop with a bungee cord that stretches across the rim like the diameter of a circle. A basketball sits in place on that bungee cord.
The 5-foot-11 Trujillo said the purpose of this invention is to help basketball players increase their vertical jump strength by leaping for the basketball and trying to dunk it.
His prototype helped him rehabilitate his right foot after surgery following his sophomore season at Wheatland in 2010.
Trujillo stepped on a nail at his home during some remodeling. The nail went through the ball of his right foot and a MRI would later reveal that pieces of the nail had stayed in his foot following its withdrawal.
Doctors cut down to the bone of Trujillo's foot to remove the shards and the A-D's two-time All-Area selection was out of basketball for six months.
"It took a long time for me to recover, but (the "Dunk-N") helped me out when my foot healed," Trujillo said. "I just kept jumping."
Trujillo was rummaging through the garage one day and stumbled across a bungee cord. He said he was just looking for something to hold the ball on the rim so he could practice jumping off his right foot again.
When he approached his parents with his device, they immediately thought it could be marketable.
After their experience with Trujillo's younger brother Tharon, an award-winning inventor in his own right, the "Dunk-N" was given the green light by Trujillo's parents.
"When he came up with this idea, we thought maybe if it's not out there and it's patentable, why not?" said James' mother Erika Trujillo. "(James) is a normal kid. You wouldn't even think that he would want to do something like this, but it's a great opportunity."
James has been getting all the advice he can from Tharon, who gained notoriety three years ago after inventing the "Lock-n-Block," a safety gate for children that goes on sliding doors, at age 12.
Tharon Trujillo's invention is now on the shelves at Babies R Us. He was inducted into the National Gallery for America's Young Inventors Hall of Fame.
His words of advice for big bro?
"Just keep talking," Tharon Trujillo said. "Promote the product."
Sound advice for the soft-spoken James, who is new to this whole speaking in front corporate executives thing.
On May 13 at the company headquarters in Englewood, Colo., James will stand in front of Sports Authority's CEO and marketing professionals for at least five minutes trying to persuade them to endorse his product.
Their decision coupled with an online poll open to the public at moveitchallenge.com will determine who wins the grand prize.
Trujillo has already received endorsements from two-time Olympic gold medalist Ruthie Bolton and former Sacramento King and NCAA champion Harold Pressley.
Erika Trujillo said if James doesn't win the grand prize, Pressley might have some plans for the "Dunk-N."
"It involves actually having some fun along with hard work, meaning you get to work on jumping as high as you can and dunking the ball at the same time," Pressley said. "I think it can take off. It can be something pretty special if it's marketed the right way."