ST. GEORGE – Basketball is quickly becoming one of the most popular sports for both athletes and spectators at the Huntsman Senior World Games.
This year, there are a total of 86 teams and roughly 450 athletes in the separate competitions.
“We have almost every state represented this year, as well as Canada, Barbados, Australia, New Zealand, Tonga, Samoa, France, England, Spain, Mexico, the Virgin Islands and South Africa,” Sewnior Games basketball director Darren Nuttall said. “The ages range from 50 to 87 in the 3-on-3 and 5-on-5 competitions and Cal Dilworth, age 94, who has never missed the games in its 31 years, was the oldest in the hotshot competition.”
Like most of the other sports in the HWSG, the basketball competitions have had modifications over the years to address the changes in growth and popularity as well as the changes that have occurred in the game.
Kim Atwater, a 12-year Huntsman World Senior Games veteran from Port Orchard, Wash., believes the basketball program has also developed into one of the better basketball tournament venues.
“I have played both softball and basketball,” Atwater said. “And I participate in the shooting contests, the 3-on-3 and the 5-on-5. We used to play at different high school and middle school gyms. It is nice having one location where everybody plays.”
Atwater also participates in several different state tournaments, as well as the model for senior basketball games in Clearwater, Fla.
“The Florida games have been going for over 30 years now,” said Atwater. “They are very organized and also draw top shelf competition. Several former NBA players as well as many college players participate. The Huntsman Games are a notch below, but only because they do not have the same draw.”
However, Atwater also pointed out the advantages southern Utah has over other locales.
“The best thing about the Huntsman Games is the location,” he said. “Every year, we have done something different. We have visited Zion and Bryce as well as the other nearby parks. We have gone to the local attractions and enjoyed the culture and cuisine of St. George. The scenery is second to none. And you won’t find better weather anywhere else in October.
“This year the organizers have added a new feature. You can now go online at any time and get game results as the games finish. Before, if you wanted to know how teams did, you had to go to the venue and look at the written postings on the wall.”
Jerry Finley, an American now living in Capetown, South Africa, has been to many senior games events both nationally and overseas. He is also marking his 10th year of participation this year at the Huntsman Senior World Games.
“There has been vast improvement in how the basketball games have been run in the last 10 years,” Finley said. “But, there is still room for improvement. The games here are better than most state tournaments, but a touch below the bigger tournaments.”
Finley believes the officiating is good, but with different rules in the 3-on-3 competition, there could be better preparation.
“For the first couple of games every year, it seems we are educating the officials on the rules for the 3-on-3,” he said. “It is different when 5-on-5 starts because the rules are similar to the high school rules. But we have a coaches’ meeting where we go over the rules. It might be productive to have the officials there, too.”
For Finley, it’s the camaraderie and friendships built through the game of basketball that make it worthwhile.
“I have met so many good people,” he said. “Administrators, officials, players I have competed with and against. Many great people. Basketball is a sport where the athletes compete much more closely than other sports. It is a great setting to develop a brotherhood among the competitors.”
The 3-on-3 and hotshot competitions concluded this past Saturday. The 5-on-5 pool play is currently being held with the tournament play concluding all competitions on Friday and Saturday.
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