The stats are unchanging: it is 13 feet to the front of the rim, or if you prefer, 15 feet to the backboard.[[In-content Ad]]
Ten feet off the hardwood, the target stands mutely. With just a dribble or two, a deep breath, a push of the arm, and a flick of the wrist, the orange sphere leaves your hand. It arcs, it soars, and success awaits.
The boys and girls ages 10 to 14 currently competing in the Knights of Columbus Free Throw Tournaments across the nation understand these stats, feel the pressure, yet enjoy the sound of the round ball swishing through the nylon net. The basketball tournament, begun in 1972, attracts hundreds of thousands of young competitors yearly; 2010 estimates by the Knights cite 344,000 participants in 4,700 local competitions.
John Gazis has the daunting task of coordinating the contest and tabulating the results from the 72 councils and 14 districts within the four counties of the Trenton Diocese.
Likening his role as Free Throw Chairman to that of a Macy’s Parade organizer at Thanksgiving, he quickly detailed the pertinent stats for the yearly competition.
Boys and girls ages 10 to 14 were invited to compete at the council, or local, level contests in Burlington, Mercer, Monmouth and Ocean Counties throughout the month of January. After three warm-up shots, each competitor is allowed 15 attempts to hear the coveted “swoosh.” Results by gender and age level are tallied, and winners progress to the district level. From there, the top scoring boy and girl in each age group goes on to compete at a diocesan tournament.
Each participant receives a certificate of participation; medals, ribbons or trophies are awarded to top scorers.
This year, the Trenton Diocesan Free Throw Tournament is tentatively scheduled for Sunday March 20 at St. Gregory the Great Parish Center, Hamilton Square. The NJ State Finals will be held one week later in Our Lady of Victories Parish Center, Sayreville.
The Knights of Columbus, established in 1882, is the largest Catholic family fraternal service organization in the world. Last year, its nearly 1.8 million members in over 14,000 local councils donated more than $150 million and volunteered 68 million hours of their time to charity.