Kids playing for championship
Houston Chronicle – Former basketball legends like Hakeem Olajuwon, Moses Malone and Clyde Drexler and current NBA players made Fonde Community Center their summer home for years, playing in highly competitive leagues.
But local youngsters ages 7 to 17 will take over the historic gym near downtown Houston on Thursday and Friday for the annual Harris County Street Olympics 3-on-3 Basketball Championships.
The hoops extravaganza is part of the Harris County Street Olympics, an Olympic-style summer games launched in the mid-1980s by Harris County Precinct One Commissioner El Franco Lee.
Brian Rego, project director for the Street Olympics and tournament director, said Houston-area youngsters are well aware of Fonde’s tradition, which will make for an electric atmosphere.
“They know of all the legends who have played at Fonde,” Rego said. “There are so many great players who come to Houston to practice in the summer. To play on the same court as those guys is pretty exciting.”
As far as the action on the court, Rego expects plenty of intensity — up to a limit.
“Most of the kids in Street Olympics aren’t summer league players,” Rego said. “They want to win, but having a good time is more important.”
In the end, only the top two teams in each age group will collect trophies.
Play will get under way on Thursday, with action in three divisions from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Division I is a co-ed league for 7- and 8-year-old girls and boys. Girls and boys will play in separate leagues in Division II (ages 9-10) and Division III (ages 11-12).
On Friday, winners will be crowned in Division IV (ages 13-14) and Division V (ages 15-17).
In all, more than 400 Harris County girls and boys on 125 teams will participate in the two-day, single-elimination tourney. They qualified by surviving four weeks of preliminary rounds at countywide neighborhood agencies for the right to compete in the Street Olympics 3-on-3 championship event.
“These kids played in leagues and earned the right to play in the finals,” Rego said.
Teams feature a maximum of four players, with only three on the court at the same time. Games take place on a half-court, with players earning one point for every field goal or free throw made. The winner is the first team to reach 13 points. In the case of a tie at the end of the 15-minute game, sudden death overtime is held, with the first team to score getting the win.
Rego described the tournament format as “make-it-or-break it.”
“You get one point for every basket or free throw,” Rego said. “They all count the same.”
Rego said the 3-on-3 tourney is one his favorite events at the Street Olympics and its companion Summer Games, which kicked off last month. More than 5,000 youngsters across Harris County are the middle of an eight-week “training” period in 12 competitive activities. The goal is advance to the Final Games on Aug. 7 at Reliant Park.
“Participation is strong this year,” Rego said. “Everything leads up to the Final Games. The next couple of weeks should be fun.”