USA Basketball Chooses Southwestern

School Will Host 12-Week ‘Open Court’ Program

P-J file photo

About a year ago, Southwestern Central School girls varsity basketball coach Dave Turnbull took a figurative half-court shot in the hopes that he would hit nothing but net.

Thanks to USA Basketball, mission accomplished.

Turnbull learned earlier this week that Southwestern has been selected as one of eight sites nationally to host an “Open Court” program for the 2019 season. According to the USA Basketball website, the Open Court program “connects children to local facilities with the goal of encouraging open play in a fun and safe environment.”

Furthermore, the website notes, the 12-week program is free and “provides a unique experience as children decide how to engage with the game under the supervision of USA Basketball-licensed coaches.”

Finally, youngsters — ages 6-17 from any school district — will earn participation points for every session attended and can be traded in for prizes at the program’s conclusion.

The sessions will be held weekly at Southwestern high school and elementary gymnasiums, beginning Sunday, Aug. 11 and running every Sunday through Nov. 3.

The times are 1-2 p.m. for ages 6-9; 2:15-4:15 p.m. for ages 10-12; and 4:30-6:30 p.m. for ages 13-17. Participants may choose from many different basketball activities, including stations; 3-on-3 and small-sided games; 5-on-5 competition; and other basketball-related games.

It’s certainly the kind of program that Turnbull, a 1980 Southwestern graduate, wished he’d had the opportunity to participate in when he was growing up.

“If you said to me, ‘You can come to a gym, we’re going to take attendance and for that we’re going to give you something, aside from just playing hoops?’ Are you kidding me?”

Turnbull added: “We’re not clinicing anything. We’ll help set things up and we’ll talk to them a little bit, but we want them to come out and have fun without parents, coaches and everybody else. Just come out and play.”

Turnbull noted that there will be up to 12 supervisors, mainly from Southwestern.

“I think what’s going to be neat about it is the little kids will have a ball with it,” Turnbull said. ” … I think the older kids will come over here on a Sunday evening, and kids from Panama may want to play with some kids from Southwestern and Maple Grove.”

It’s mindful, Turnbull said, of his teenage years when he would play pickup games on the courts at Lakewood Beach.

“We would play for hours,” he said.

Beginning next month, youngsters 6-17 can do the same thing, but this time they’ll be rewarded for it with some gear and plenty of fun.

“I hope the community appreciates how big it is for us to get USA Basketball involved,” Turnbull said. “When they pick you for a site, the hope is maybe they’ll give you a look for the youth development program that they run, and that’s kind of what I’m looking for down the road for the kids.”