Bryan Cotton almost missed his own birthday celebration.
Cotton runs highdeserthoops.com and was recording the Silverado at Granite Hills girls basketball game in January. The game got off to a late start due to some technical difficulties and he had plans to meet his family for a birthday dinner that night.
“I’m waiting for the game to start and I’m going, ‘OK, I’m late. I don’t want to upset my wife. I know she’s probably waiting for me.’ ” Cotton said. “But it all ended up working out.”
Cotton, who does clerical work in the probation department for San Bernardino County as his regular job, keeps himself plenty busy with highdeserthoops.com these days. He’s recorded about 70 High Desert basketball games this season alone. He started the site in 2010 and records and edits games from youth and rec leagues all the way up to junior college with a focus on high school.
“A lot of my days are (hectic),” Cotton said. “Especially on game day. It’s like I work my regular nine to five, leave there, go to a game, leave from the game, come home and then I’m with my family. And that’s before the editing process.”
We recently talked with Cotton, whose son Malik Cotton plays for Victor Valley, about his website and videos.
Matthew Peters: How did you get started with the site?
Brian Cotton: With the video it really just started off as me just recording my own son’s games. I’d do videos throughout his whole basketball career. One game, he had a teammate that did so good that I said. ‘You know what. I need to include him in this video.’ Then I started doing his whole (Victor Valley) freshman team videos following them. Then I came to pick him up from a game and I saw their varsity play and it just so happened to be the season where the varsity went 12-0. I walked in on a game and I saw the varsity play and I said, ‘You know what, I need to just follow the whole varsity.’ So I started following all of Victor Valley. Then parents kept coming up to me saying, ‘You know what? You need to do something bigger than this.’ I was kind of hesitant at first, but I said, ‘You know what? I’m just going to try to do the whole High Desert.’ That’s pretty much how it was birthed.
MP: What’s your background in basketball?
BC: I’m just more of a fan than anything. I never played like college ball or nothing like that. Basketball is really a hobby of mine. Having my son being involved kind of made me a fan. If he had been playing football it would probably be High Desert Gridiron or High Desert Football or something. Just having my kid interested in something kind of made me pursue.
MP: How much time do you think you spend doing anything for High Desert Hoops?
BC: I would say … I don’t know. A whole lot of time actually. Most of my free time goes to something in regards to High Desert Hoops. I guess the best way to put it is, for every hour that I’m out recording a game I spend an additional two, two and half hours editing and upload and researching different teams and names and all that stuff. One game is usually like maybe an hour, hour and half. I have to spend another two to two and half hours at least away from the game. If I go and do a girls game and a boys game, well that’s two different games so for each game I have to spend that much time putting them together.
MP: When you first started did you envision it taking up that much time?
BC: No, not at all. I really thought it would be a little easier and a little less time consuming. Because it’s a hobby for me that makes it good for me because I’m doing my hobby. It’s not like a job. Well, it is sort of is a job, but it’s not one of those things where I don’t want to do it. I do it because I want to do it. It’s not really a hard thing for me. I never envisioned it taking this much of my time, at least at this point of it. I figured maybe somewhere down the line I would get bigger as a video outlet, but I never envisioned it would take so much time so soon.
MP: How many of your son’s games do you get to see?
BC: Not as many as I would like. He’s very understanding, knowing that I’m trying to do this thing. I never wanted it to be like, ‘Oh, you are doing a Victor game because your son goes there.’ I have to treat his games like I would treat anybody else’s games.
For the most part, this year he’s a senior so I’m trying to get out to more of his games. With them being in second place in the DSL, whether my son was on that team or not I would have been going to more of their games. With those things in play, I’m trying to get out to more of his games, trying to be more supportive of him as senior, but a lot of times I have to just not go to his games. He understands and that means a lot to me that he understands. Honestly, I’ve missed half of his games.
MP: Are you able to make money off the site?
BC: Off of High Desert Hoops? No. That’s all a free thing. What happens is, I end up having to make an additional company (BCotton Productions) to handle making money. When I first started off people would come to me and say, ‘Hey, can you do a special highlight video of my son or daughter?’ I was like, ‘Fine.’ It was like, ‘Well how much are you going to charge.’ I was like, ‘There’s no fee.’ I would just go ahead and do it no problem.
The problem is once those videos start getting out, it got more popular and more people started coming to me to do stuff like that and it starts taking away from High Desert Hoops in itself. And legally, you can’t bring in so much revenue without having to pay taxes on it or whatever. My first year, that’s kind of how I ran it. By the time the second year came around I had to set up a business to were if people came to me to do something that was extra. I would be able to get revenue for it so I could actually report it to the IRS. Now from a business standpoint, the business, which is BCotton Productions, has been in existence for two years. Both years I have not made a profit … as far as financially, I am actually taking a loss. I’m putting a lot of my own personal money into keeping running it.
For me the profit is seeing the results of what High Desert Hoops and BCotton Productions has been able to do for some of the kids. Because now we’re are starting to get colleges that are either contacting me or contacting coaches starting to get interest in this area as far as basketball. Because I believe this area is more of a football/volleyball/something else. This area is not really known for basketball. We have a few people regionally who have made it big in the college ranks. My profit thus far has not been monetarily, but it’s more been seeing the success of other players and knowing I had a part in it.
I just recently got my (CIF-Southern Section) media credential to where I could get in games free. The first year, I paid just to get into games because coaches didn’t really know what I was doing. They didn’t know what I was about. Now, with the media pass that helps me.
I also do travel ball. If I’m having to travel Down the Hill I have to pay for parking. I have to get into each tournament. It really, really starts to build up. I can say this much, if I got into this to make money, I wouldn’t still be doing this. There’s no profit in it at this point. Even when I charge people when they want me to do their actual special highlight films or whatever, I still try to keep it at a price to where it’s not going to break them but it’s not so cheap that everybody wants a highlight video and I’m doing more so highlight videos as opposed to what I’m doing with High Desert Hoops, which is showcasing full teams.
Even with High Desert Hoops, I’ve had to tell some people — they’ll come up to me and say, ‘I’d like pay for a highlight video.’ I’ll be like, ‘No, High Desert Hoops is already going to do a highlight video on you. You are just going to have to be patient and wait. We are not going to do it now, but sometime in a couple months you are going to get one from High Desert Hoops.’ I do do personal highlights just to showcase certain athletes for free from High Desert Hoops. Because a lot of parents, they understand what the whole recruiting process is and they are like, ‘No, we need something now. We need something to get to colleges.’ When I get to that point, that’s when I say, ‘OK well we are going to have to do something through BCotton Productions where I’m going to have to charge you because I’m doing something above and beyond what High Desert Hoops does.”
MP: What do you think of the evolution of the site?
BC: The last four months, it’s seen a really big boom. It’s getting more popular each month, especially this last four months. I know once I plugged into Twitter, what happened is I’ll tweet something about a game and a follower will see that and they’ll like it and then their followers will see it and then they just kind of latch on, ‘Oh hey, that’s the High Desert Hoops guy.’
A lot of times just going into the gym, people will say, ‘Hey, there’s the High Desert Hoops guy.’ I get a lot of that now as opposed to when I first started. When I first started people were looking like, ‘Hey, who is this guy with the camera?’ Now it’s like, ‘Hey, that’s the High Desert Hoops guy.’ It’s really starting to get popular not just for athletes but also for the parents. The parents come up to me a lot and say, ‘Hey we appreciate what you are doing.’ Some of the high school coaches come up to me and say, ‘Hey you know we appreciate what you are doing. Thanks for coming out.’ It’s been going at a nice pace.
MP: What do you think the future for High Desert Hoops is?
BC: That’s kind of hard to say. I’m just kind of taking it day-by-day, game-by-game. Where I would like to see it — and a lot of people have been kind of pushing toward this direction but I’m not trying to do it too much — I would like to be able to cover more of the games outside of the High Desert. A lot of times when our teams go Down the Hill for tournaments or whatever, I was unable to get to them or I don’t have the staff to cover them. In the future, I would like to have not so much me being the one-man operation but have multiple people follow our High Desert teams whether they are playing locally or whether they are playing Down the Hill. That way we could get more coverage.
One thing I probably shouldn’t say but I’ll say it anyway. I want to get to the point where, and I’ve kind of taken some steps to it, but the point where there are some games that are actually being broadcast live, kind of like doing a live set. That’s probably somewhere off in the future, but I’d like to see that.
I want to actually establish an all-area High Desert Hoops basketball game, where all of the top players we follow, we make a game into it. I’m not really ready for that right now, but I’m trying to get to that point.
That will probably be, I don’t know if this is the right way to say it, but the pinnacle of success for High Desert Hoops — all-area all-star game. Not to take away from the Riverside and San Bernardino senior all-star game and not to take away from the senior all-star game that happens each year, but one not just for the seniors, but sort of like when you come out with the (Daily Press) all-area team, a game for all those top players, whether they are freshman or seniors. Have them on the same court and have a game for them. I would like to get to that.