By Kellen Beck and Matt Constas
The first ever Hoops for Troops three vs. three basketball tournament took place on the morning of Halloween at Ithaca High School.
The event was presented by the Ithaca Elite Basketball Club (IEBC), an Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) organization founded by Khalil Griffith and James “Rudy” Williams in its second year of operations as the first of its kind in Ithaca.
Kymberlee Zimmer, a parent of one of the players in the tournament, said she is happy that there is an opportunity to play in a tournament this time of year.
“There’s really no other basketball tournaments around at this time of year so we were really glad to see that there was one,” she said. “And the fact that it was for the Wounded Warrior project fundraiser, we were really excited to participate in that good cause.”
Through the program and events like this, Griffith looks to use basketball as a developmental tool for young men, and Halloween provides an opportune time to spark interest.
“It’s a transitional period from season-to-season,” he said. “It’s fun to kick off the basketball season and to get guys playing. It is an interactive event, it is competitive and at the same time it is fun.”
There were seven middle school teams and three high school teams, and each team was required to pay $30 to participate.
Ithaca College junior Kelsea Schagrin, who helped coordinate the event, sees it as a tool to get people of all ages involved, no matter how much basketball experience they have.
“It gives kids who don’t play basketball or aren’t on a team, in a [recreational] league or play in school a chance to play with the kids that do,” she said.
In its first season, the IEBC consisted of only two sixth grade teams and 10th, 11th and 12th grade teams. Now heading into its third season, there will be nine teams ranging between fourth and 10th grade. As the club has seen steady growth over the past couple of years, Griffith hopes that people will have a good time at Hoops for Troops and that they will share that with others throughout the community that might want to give basketball a try.
“Some of our players that played with us this season are going to be participating, we also have players that haven’t played with us in this tournament,” he said. “If we can put on a good tournament and provide a good time for these individuals, then we have word of mouth spreading around the community saying to take the opportunity to not only develop your skills, but it is a great experience as well.”
As more people throughout the community find out about the IEBC, their clinics and events, Griffith hopes to form a familiarity with the Hoops for Troops event and sees it as something people can look forward to around this time in future years.
“This is the inaugural tournament, but this is something we are looking to carry on and make sort of a tradition going forward,” he said. “It is something we can look to pass on or continue doing ourselves, and making it a consistent tournament every single year for people to come in and say, ‘Hey, Hoops for Troops is coming up, are you ready for that?’”
Zimmer said the tournament is an easy way to get kids playing and is hopeful that the organization will continue to put on this event and more like it.
“Hopefully this will grow and they will be able to put on more tournaments and stuff because… it’s easy to come up with 3, 4, 5, 6 people to play,” she said. “It’s a good cause so hopefully they’ll be able to do more tournaments like this.”