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Ballin' it 'big time'

Young JBLM players take games to the next level during a special Seattle University-sponsored event at 17,000-seat Key Arena

Northwest Guardian

Published: 01:49PM February 21st, 2013
Ballin' it 'big time'

Scott Hansen/Northwest Guardian

Members of the Lewis SuperSonics (in red) and the McChord Lightning play on the floor at Key Arena.

Nearly five years after relocating to Oklahoma City, the SuperSonics were back at KeyArena last Saturday.

They weren’t the pre-2008 Seattle Sonics that are today’s Oklahoma City Thunder, but rather the SuperSonics of Joint Base Lewis-MChord.

The 12-to-15-year-old Child, Youth and School Services basketball players ran up and down the court once home to Seattle’s former NBA team, and now home to the Seattle Storm and the Seattle University men’s basketball team.

Before Seattle University hosted the University of Texas-Arlington Saturday night, the court was opened to four JBLM youth teams for two 30-minute games. The 9-to-11-year-olds played first followed by the older teenagers. “It’s exciting for the kids,” Army spouse Erica Hogge said. “I told (my 10-year-old son) Taylor it was an NBA stadium previously and he was excited to know an NBA team actually played here.”

For most of the younger basketball players the Seattle Sonics are a team they read about in sports history books. But for others, including coach Shon Smith, the opportunity to play basketball at the former home of the Sonics doesn’t happen every day.

“I explained to them a couple of times the story of the Sonics,” Smith said. “I’m excited for them to have the opportunity because I never had the opportunity when I was a kid. I feel like I’m playing in the game.”

All the teams and cheerleaders filed into the arena through the team’s entrance and ran through the tunnels just as the pros do before games.

“Look how big it is,” a parent said to his toddler as they looked up at the arena that seats 17,072 for basketball games.

The families and friends all sat together in one section of the stadium that was opened just for them. Sean McLain, general manager of ticket sales for Seattle University, reached out to CYSS to invite the youth teams to play at KeyArena and hopes to turn this into an annual event.

“I thought it would be fun to give the kids court time,” he said.

The Lewis Bullets and the McChord 9-to-11-year-old teams shared the court for warm-up drills. When the buzzer went off signaling the game to begin some players covered their ears.

JBLM youth Jershika Maple sang the National Anthem before the teams’ post players tipped off over the Seattle U. floor logo at midcourt and battled it out for 30 minutes.

“Use your speed!” McChord coach Joy Richardson yelled from the sideline.

“Dribble it, pass it, we want a basket!” the McChord cheerleaders yelled.

McChord was on the board first, but the Bullets came back to win 20-14.

“It’s kind of awesome playing on a college court,” said McChord’s Tanner Richardson, who turned 12 that day. Tanner’s mom, Joy Richardson, an Air Force spouse, volunteer coaches with her husband. She said she enjoyed watching the kids’ reactions as they set foot inside the arena.

“Once we got out here the kids were pretty impressed,” Joy Richardson said. “I think they felt they hit the big time.”

After the game, three CYSS cheerleader groups performed routines before the 12-to-15-year olds took the court. The McChord Wildcats opened with a big lead but the Lewis SuperSonics came back to tie it at 15 points with 13 minutes left and went on to win 30-18.

After the youth games, adult teams from the Marines and Coast Guard also played a 30-minute game.

All of the teams were invited to stay for the Seattle University game, but the extra fans of the home team couldn’t root the Redhawks to victory, losing a close one to University of Texas-Arlington, 65-63.