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Kids big and small play basketball

Duluthian Hayden Clore blocks Kiely Issendorf of Cloquet as she attempts to make a basket in the Hillside Sports Court. The two are playing against each other in the "Dunkin' In Duluth" three-on-three basketball tournament. (Photo by Teri Cadeau)

Eighty young basketball players from the Duluth area took the game outdoors last Saturday for the third annual "Dunkin' In Duluth" 3-on-3 tournament, free-throw and three-point contest at the Hillside Sports Court in the Central Hillside.

"It's a great day for basketball," said Kris Mallett, coordinator of the Salvation Army's Rookie Basketball Association (RBA). "We couldn't ask for better weather or such enthusiastic players."

The event was a dual effort between the RBA and the Duluth Parks and Recreation division.

In the past, the three-on-three competition was was limited to students in the third to eighth grades, while only the free-throw competition was open to any students in 12th grade and under. However this year, the three-on-three tournament was open to students from second grade to 12th grade.

"We don't pit them against each other, obviously. We have a junior, a middle and senior level of competition. But I think it's good for the younger kids to watch how the older kids play," Mallett said.

Volunteers from University of Minnesota Duluth's men's and women's basketball teams acted as referees and coaches for the teams.

This year the tournament had more participation from the areas surrounding Duluth. Teams from Cloquet, Hermantown, Proctor, Esko, Carlton, East, Denfeld and Marshall pushed the number of players on the courts up to 80, making this year the best turnout for the tourney so far.

"I think it's great to have all these teams. The kids play against each other when they're older, so it's nice that they can meet each other at this friendly competition," Mallett said.

Most of the teams were representatives of larger teams. The students don't normally play three-on-three so the competition was more of a challenge for some.

"Three-on-three basketball is different. You have less ground to cover, because there's only half a court, but more responsibility because there are only three of you out there," said Mackenzie Goranson, a junior from Carlton.

Duluthian Jenn Boos says she enjoyed watching her son Carter play with his friends he'd made during little league. The team called themselves the "Central Ballers" in honor of their Central Little League team.

"It teaches the kids sportsmanship and gives them a chance to practice their skills. And they're having fun," Boos said.

Boos' son also participates in the Salvation Army Rookie Basketball league. The Rookie Basketball Association (RBA) is an area-wide entry-level basketball program for boys and girls in grades K-4 during the school year, K-6 in summer clinics and up to grade 12 at 3-on-3 tournaments. Last year 48 volunteer coaches fielded 26 teams, utilizing five gym facilities across the city.The RBA five-on-five winter league is now taking registrations for boys and girls in grades 1-4. The league focuses on the fundamentals of basketball. Practices begin the week of Nov. 2 and the games are on Saturdays from Nov. 14 to March 12. Parents and/or guardians must register their children by Oct. 9 and pay a registration fee of $90. Contact Kris Mallett at (218) 576-6174 for more information.

Teri Cadeau

Teri Cadeau is a reporter for the Budgeteer.

(218) 720-4176