Knights of Columbus hosts Free Throw Championship
Pat Soukup ducked as a basketball flew toward his head before deftly returning it to its owner.
The basketball was one of many being swished through nets and hurled toward backboards — and heads — on Sunday afternoon at the Mitchell Recreation Center.
“Let’s not use the competition nets yet, OK?” he said to the group of mostly elementary and middle school boys practicing their shots prior to the Knights of Columbus Free Throw Championship.
Soukup, the event chairman, said the annual event held in support of youth basketball for boys and girls is a long-standing tradition — one that he remembers shooting in as a child.
Now, his sons participate in the event.
“It’s coming full circle,” he said with a smile.
Soukup said Knights of Columbus is a nonprofit that supports youth programs in various ways, the free-throw competition among them.
“That’s why we’re here,” he said. “To help our fellow man — and woman.”
About 10 volunteers, comprised of Knights of Columbus members and their families, coordinated the effort on Sunday, herding the 20 local youth who competed in the event into their respective categories.
The competition splits youth into groups by age and gender. Soukup said youth are given three warm-up shots if they wish, then 15 make-ormiss attempts. Kids sat on benches carried to the middle of the court while waiting their turn, watching intently. A judge recorded each made or missed basket, and whether shooters’ feet crossed the line.
Soukup said all 9-, 10- or 11-year-olds shoot from the 12-foot mark, which Sunday was noted with tape on the gymnasium floor, with a women’s regulation basketball. Girls in the 12-, 13- or 14-year-old age groups shoot from the free-throw line with a women’s regulation ball.
Boys in the 12-, 13- or 14-year-old age division shoot a men’s regulation ball from the free-throw line.
Despite the efficiency and organization, the event maintained an informal, friendly atmosphere. Organizers and volunteers offered words of encouragement to the day’s basketball shooters, and friendly games of one-on-one erupted frequently between competitions.
Just two girls competed in the event, something Soukup lamented, including 11-year-old Cameryn Logan, of Mitchell.
Logan, a fifth-grader at Gertie Belle Rogers Elementary, said this was her first time to compete in the Knights of Columbus’ event, though not her first basketball competition.
“I needed to work on my shots a little bit,” she said.
It was a fun way to practice, Logan said. As for moving up the competition ladder to districts, she said she’s not nervous — she’s excited.
The other female competitor, 9-year-old Katelyn Robinson, said shooting is her favorite part of basketball. This was her first time to participate in the competition. Her dad, Greg, said Katelyn wanted to join her older brother, Dillon, in the contest. Both attend John Paul II Elementary, where they said they enjoy playing basketball.
Dillon, who’s 12, said he likes dribbling and shooting the best about the sport, and has enjoyed the contest in the past.
The day’s winners received a certificate, as well as a Knights of Columbus T-shirt, and a chance to compete at the district competition, which will be on Feb. 9 in Parkston. Each of Sunday’s competitors received a certificate of completion.
Winners of the Knights of Columbus Free Throw Championship were (not all age groups had participants):
Girls: 10-year-old age group, Katelyn Robinson; 11-year-old age group, Cameryn Logan;
Boys: 9-year-old age group, Gavin Soukup; 11-year-old age group, Kelton Vincent; 12-year-old age group, Kade Clark; 13-year-old age group, Jared Miller.
Photos by Candy DenOuden/Republic
Above: Pat Soukup, chairman for the Knights of Columbus Free Throw Championship, explains the rules to this year’s crop of competitors Sunday at the Mitchell Recreation Center. Below: Competitors and their families await the results of the free-throw competition.