March 23, 1998 12:00 PM

ON THE BASKETBALL COURT, 13-year-old Christopher Haas can’t touch the rim, but that didn’t stop him from coming up with a slam-dunk of an idea. His basketball brainstorm figures to earn him at least $50,000 this year.

The light bulb went on while he was watching other kids play roundball at Donald Graham Elementary School in Wildomar, Calif., when he was 9 years old. Encouraged by his father, Michael, a former high school coach, Chris had been playing since he could walk, and he recognized that his classmates were making fundamental mistakes. “I thought I could help them by putting hands on the ball to show the proper way to shoot,” he says. “So I stuck my hands in some poster paint and I put them on the ball in the right position.”

Thus—with some refinements—was born the $12.95 Hands-on Basketball, manufactured by Sportime, an Atlanta-based company, and available at Kmart and other stores. It’s basically a junior-sized basketball with two sets of hand outlines—for righties or lefties—to help kids sink their shots.

Chris’s brainchild didn’t even get an honorable mention in his elementary school’s invention fair, but it impressed teachers and coaches. His parents helped him develop the idea, and Chris did his own market research by asking players and coaches “if it helped them,” says Chris, “and how much they think it should cost.”

Now that he has made his basketball debut, Chris is looking to other sports. His Hands-on Football is due to debut in December, and he has plans for a line of similar products. Although he’s an entrepreneur, Chris still has hoop dreams. If he is good enough, he says, he would like to play basketball, in high school, college and, perhaps, the NBA. And if he doesn’t? “Maybe I’ll buy a team,” he says.

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