Atascadero Middle School sports reporter interviews former NBA draft no. 1 pick

Like many young boys between the ages of 12 and 15, Weston Hooten loves sports. He loves football in the fall, can't wait for basketball in the winter and patiently waits for baseball in the spring. Hooten is a total sports fanatic, he spends hours watching the NFL draft and his allegiances lie all across the country. He loves the Cleveland Cavaliers but also the Anaheim Angels, the Kansas City Chiefs, and the Oregon Ducks.

Hooten is currently an eighth-grader at Atascadero Middle School but instead of donning the blue Saints uniforms on the court with the basketball team he will be sitting in the stands watching intently. In 2014, Hooten tore his Anterior Cruciate Ligament, more commonly known as your ACL, in a youth football game.

One ACL tear, at such a young age, is something to worry about but only a minor setback for someone with such positivity.

“The first time he tore his ACL rehab was easy,” Hooten’s mom Debbie Gough said. “Because he was coming back and he knew that and he could go back to every sport.” After about a year of rehab and perseverance, Hooten was back to full strength and ready to get back to playing the sports he loved.

Then, only two years after tearing his left ACL and only several months after finally returning to the playing, Hooten fell to the ground again grabbing at his knee. This time it was his left knee and the doctors confirmed his worst nightmare, another ACL tear.

“It hurt, it was painful but we got through it,” Gough said. “And then he did it the second time and the doctor said no football because you want knees when you’re 30. He had a rough time with that, Weston really went through a slump when he didn't want to do his rehab and didn't want to go through physical therapy and didn't want to do much of anything so that was hard for us.”

Dreams of playing in the NFL or NBA came suddenly to a screeching halt. Daydreams of towering home runs and 60-yard touchdowns were taken from him in an instant and he was left searching for his purpose. Slowly, he recovered. His morale mended as his knees did and eventually he was ready to try again.

This time he set his sights on the middle school basketball team. He showed up ready to tryout, ready to put the past behind him. However, due to being out of physical activity for the better part of three years Hooten lacked the polish needed and was left off the final roster.

Unable to play the sports he loved put Hooten turned to another outlet, sports writing.

“So this was his idea, he said, ‘Mom can I do sports writing?’ and I was super proud of him,” Gough said. “When life gives you lemons you make lemonade and that was essentially what Weston did.”

Just a few weeks after missing the cut for the basketball team, Hooten had started to create an empire. He is now the middle school’s sports correspondent, he has a “kid sports reporter” page on the Atascadero Middle School website and covers their games, writing up coverage for everyone to see.

However, it wasn't just seventh and eighth-grade athletes that took notice of Hooten’s incredible perseverance and drive to keep moving forward. He has now caught the eye of several professionals. Once Hooten began getting excited about sports writing his Mom began sending out e-mails to sports agents hoping someone might want to sit down with her son.

“I must have sent out 100 e-mails to sports agents thinking that it was a total long shot, and then Danielle Kantor reach out,” Gough said. “She told us she would give Elton [Brand] all of Weston’s information and he will get ahold of you and a couple days before Thanksgiving he texted Weston.”

Elton Brand is a former No. 1 overall pick in the NBA draft out of Duke. He made two all-star teams and retired in 2016. That’s right, a former No. 1 draft pick Facetimed with Atascadero’s middle school sports reporter.

“I was bouncing off the walls,” Hooten said. He spent hours researching Brand and formed a whole list of questions for the former superstar.

“I asked him if he won in a rap battle against Shaquille O'Neal,” Hooten said. Hooten and Brand talked for several minutes before a 76er game earlier this year. J.J. Reddick was in the background warming up and Brand told him he was proud of him and that he wanted them to stay in touch.

Fast forward another month and now Hooten is loving his new career as a sports journalist and has set up an interview with former LA Kings legend Jim Fox.  If you find yourself at a middle school game this season look for the blonde haired boy decked out in gear from his favorite sports team, and maybe you can get an interview.


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