By Steve Urbon
June 25. 2016 3:26PM
NEW BEDFORD — Think sporting goods in this city and you think golf balls. But a fledgling company in the North End is making a reputation all its own with a patented basketball backboard that they call True Bounce.
President Wayne Newton and Eric Britto, director of sports development, are the executives behind a product that is quickly being adopted by municipalities in major cities for the dramatic improvement it makes in the game of basketball.
The principle is simple but effective. True Bounce makes their backboards out of acrylic, not glass or metal, and they drill perforations across the face of the equipment.
That allows for up to 28 percent of the energy from a layup to be dispersed through the backboard, slowing down the ball and making rebounds and jump shots much more manageable. Newton and Britto contend that their product will change the game as players once again use the backboard as compared to avoiding it.
Today True Bounce is being embraced by amateur players in major cities; Nike embraced it, too, with a spring advertising campaign that depicted the slogan “Just Do It” and the Nike swoosh with a picture of a True Bounce basketball backboard.
This, the True Bounce team contends, is the kind of player connection with what was regarded as a standardized and unimproved piece of equipment. The hope is that the NCAA and eventually the pros will adopt the patented technology.
True Bounce, with just six employees, works out of a second-floor factory building on Conduit Street near Joseph Abboud. Newton and Britto spoke with The Standard-Times recently; the interview has been edited for clarity and space.
How did Nike come to recognize your product?
Newton: We are the preferred backboard for New York City along with Boston, Atlanta, San Francisco … We’re are a retrofit company as well as a new manufacturer so we have the ability to retrofit and that’s what really gave us our start, our ability to go and save the city a bunch of money without having to rip up pole systems and put in new asphalt new concrete, and allow them to beautify their parks with a minimal amount of money.
So you give the you give the existing system a makeover with the new perforated backboard attached to it?
Newton: That is correct.
How many of these have you done?
Newton: We’re approaching 2,000 right now. Again, we are the preferred backboard for Boston, New York City, Maryland National, Atlanta, Sacramento, San Francisco, and so on and so forth. We’re in all the specifications for New York City.
What is it like teaming up with Nike?
Newton: Well, we’re not technically saying we’re teaming up with Nike. Nike has basically taken our product because of its relationships with players in the urban setting. They have tied the excellence of their product with what we believe is the excellence of our product to the excellence of New York City basketball. And what you are seeing here is not just an outdoor product because they’ve taken it to the indoors as well as outdoors.
So in New York City the rebound being reduced but not eliminated is becoming the new normal?
Newton: That’s correct.
So everybody is getting used to this?
Newton: Let’s not forget that a basketball backboard has never been like a golfer’s golf club or a baseball player’s bat or a football player’s helmet. It has always been a part of the building. So people have never acknowledged that the basketball backboard as a part of their equipment. So this is why it’s been such a challenge for Eric and I to really get this to the industry because they’ve never ever challenged the backboard in a hundred years. So we’ve ve now challenged the backboard in such a position where they don’t know what to do.
Now the backboard is in play?
Newton: Not only is it in play but we’ve actually got players attending city meetings, councils and groups, to get the backboards changed to True Bounce. It was in Brooklyn where they went in there and they had the backboards changed after the project was almost done. They demanded the True Bounce.
And obviously Nike is seeing that because the players know to look for these backboards?
Britto: Nike attracts the best players in the best playgrounds in the best city. Nike sees what the players prefer up there and they write it down and they put it in their slogan for a spring marketing campaign.
Newton: They basically didn’t involve us at all. That’s why we believe they tied the excellence of their name to the excellence of our product to the excellence of street ball in New York City.
Britto: We’re saying that we’ve got worldwide exposure because our product is the best. It’s a unique situation.
What is it like doing business in New Bedford for a company your size?
Newton: It has been good. We went through some tough times in the recession. It was very difficult at times to tie the financial end of it to the burdens of what they (municipalities) were cutting from spending. But we were savvy enough to get this thing to the point it is today. We’ve been on a steady increase since 2012. We were up at least 20 percent from ’12 to ’13 we increased by 23 percent, from ’13 to ’14 it was 23 percent and last year ’14 to ’15 we increased by 68 percent
Britto: And this is an industry that doesn’t need any more backboards.
You’ve got something that everybody wants as soon as they understand it?
Newton: Yes, yes. The brand that we created is now being demanded.
Britto: We’ve tied the backboard to the player is basically what we’ve done.
Do people realize you are manufacturing this in New Bedford?
Newton: A lot of people haven’t. You’re absolutely right, and I think that’s why this is a big story because something great is being made in New Bedford again besides Titleist and we’re going to be the next one.