Senior games: Advanced years, advanced hoops at Huntsman Senior Games

Rhett Parsons (30) battles against Darren Cole (red), Huntsman Senior Games, Mens 3 on 3 Basketball, St. George, Utah, Oct. 10, 2015, | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News

WASHINGTON CITY — Families shuffling through the Washington City Community Center, perhaps on the way to the pool or the workout rooms, couldn’t help but notice a particular set of clientele this week filling the halls and gymnasiums of the venue.

Huntsman World Senior Games LogoSome tall, some not as much, all of them lean and every one of them sporting at least a little gray in their hair, basketball players from around Utah and around the USA competed hard in the Huntsman World Senior games basketball event at the WCCC, with the 3-on-3 portion completing competition Saturday.

For many, the HWSG have become a tradition, a chance to put to the test the year-long and life-long practice of hooping it up with friends.

“I’ve played at six o’clock in the morning for the past 40 years,” said St. George native Bill Painter. “I don’t have to watch my diet. My weight’s stayed basically the same for 40 years. I don’t have to watch what I eat, so for me it’s exercise, but also, for that hour or so that I play, I don’t have to worry about anything else but playing basketball. If I have a hassle going on at home or I’ve got a hassle going on at work, it’s gone for that hour. In a way, it’s like therapy.”

Jerry Finley (23) drives to the hoop for Shelf Life, Huntsman World Senior Games, Men's 3-on-3 basketball, Washington, Utah, Oct. 10, 2015, | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News
Jerry Finley (23) drives to the hoop for Shelf Life, Huntsman World Senior Games, Men’s 3-on-3 basketball, Washington, Utah, Oct. 10, 2015, | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News

Most of the hoopsters at the event feel the same way, using early morning or noon pick-up ball to shirk off the cares of the world, with indoor church courts and rec centers acting as havens of hoop from the outside pressures of life.

“You know, I never played in high school or anything, said Kevin Lewis of Washington City. “I just started playing with some old guys and it was a lot of fun. I get my cardio in and I really enjoy it and I’ve learned a lot from guys who know how to play.”

One of the attractions of the sport, and specifically the chance to compete in the Senior Games, is the opportunity to make new friends who share a similar passion for basketball.

“That’s one of the things that originally attracted me to the Senior Games,” Painter said. “There used to be a lot more original teams and players from all over. It seems like we play a lot of the same teams now, but it is good to see these guys from other areas once a year.”

Exercise, friendship and shared interests are good and well, but players are also quick to remind anyone who will listen that they are there to win.

Gary "Gray Wolf" Nelson
Gary “Gray Wolf” Nelson

“Whether it’s four teams or whatever in your bracket, you definitely want to go get a gold medal,” said St. George’s Gary “Gray Wolf” Nelson, who is just a shade under 80-years old. “We’re playing for the gold medal in the 75-plus bracket today and I can tell you this, we’re going to play hard do everything we can to get a win.”

Of course, teams go in some realistic expectations as well.

“This is a great way to get out and see what you really have and find out that you really don’t have much,” said Lewis, moments after his team was eliminated in bracket play. “There are some really good teams here and some great players. Of course, the legs start to go a little, too.”

Washington City resident Kevin Lewis takes a break during the basketball event at the Huntsman World Senior Games at the Washington City Community Center, Washington, Utah, Oct. 10, 2015 | Photo by Shelly Griffin, St. George News
Washington City resident Kevin Lewis takes a break during the basketball event at the Huntsman World Senior Games at the Washington City Community Center, Washington, Utah, Oct. 10, 2015 | Photo by Shelly Griffin, St. George News

Lewis and his teammates were wrapping up their sixth game in three days, while some teams had seven or eight contests. So, even for guys who play everyday, it can be a grind.

“The guys you play with in the mornings, your regulars, they’re a good group of good guys and you call your own fouls. They don’t push, they don’t shove. Nobody gets mad,” Painter said. “Here, it’s a little bit different. Everybody gets a little more excited. I was always told basketball was a non-contact sport. That’s another lie they tell you.”

The 3-on-3 event was broken down into age brackets, with men’s 50+, 55+, 60+, 65+, 70+, 75+ and 80+. There were 37 teams competing in the different  groups, with round robin play Thursday and Friday and bracket to medal play on Saturday. Teams hailed from around the United States, including as far away as North Carolina, Texas, Indiana and Florida as well as a team from Barbados.

And leave up to the old guys to come up with some creative names for their teams, with fierce competition going on with the Geezers, Hoosier Daddy and the Kokomo Cupcakes.

Jay Wooten looks for a helping hand, Huntsman Senior Games, Mens 3 on 3 Basketball, St. George, Utah, Oct. 10, 2015, | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News
Jay Wooten looks for a helping hand, Huntsman World Senior Games, Men’s 3-on-3 basketball, Washington, Utah, Oct. 10, 2015, | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News

But, whether the players came away with gold or not, most left the courts of the WCCC sore and satisfied.

“It’s a lot of fun,” Lewis said. “This is what I’ve noticed: These guys might be old, some of them, but they don’t miss. You’ve got to be on to have a chance. We got our butts kicked, but we had a great time.”

The 3-on-3 women’s event was earlier in the week, while the men’s 5-on-5 begins Monday and runs through next weekend. There is also a unique basketball skills and shooting competition, which concludes with competition Monday beginning at 8 a.m.

For more on the Huntsman World Senior Games, go to their home page or for more basketball specific info, go to the basketball section at seniorgames.net.

Email: sports@stgnews.com

Twitter: @oldschoolag

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2015, all rights reserved.

 

 

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