NEW CASTLE —
Jordon Rooney just wanted some new hoops.
At this rate, he’s going to be contributing much more to the Union Township community.
Rooney, a 2008 Union High graduate, grew up playing basketball on the outdoor court at Scotland Meadows Park. Through the years, he witnessed its condition worsen.
So, he decided to do something to raise funds to help restore it — organize a 3-on-3 basketball tournament at the same location.
Now in its third year, the Pizza Joe’s Community Pride 3-on-3 Basketball Tournament has raised approximately $4,000 for upgrades of the facility. This year’s event is slated for June 16. Registration is at 11 a.m. and games begin at noon and run into the night.
“One big thing about this, it’s giving something for Union to take pride in. No one has a court like this. It’s the only one around with lights, too,” Rooney said. “I take pride in where I am from. It feels great for people to have something to take pride in as well.”
Rooney, who graduated from Westminster last month, played football, basketball and baseball at Union. He played football during his four years at Westminster, but took time out to help coach football and basketball at Union, too. He remains committed to helping out the community.
“Doing this is pretty difficult,” he said. “I’d go to class and then rush back and try to meet with a business to try to get a sponsorship. What’s really helped out is being on Facebook, talking to many people about this. It’s enabled me to get a lot of people involved. I am able to network and talk to these people. I really take pride in making this a big event.”
In addition to a Facebook event page, a website exists (www.communitypridebball.com) and Rooney spends time making personal visits to area basketball courts to help spread the word.
It’s a winning formula. The event has grown and attracted some of the top basketball players — and athletes — from Lawrence and Beaver counties, as well as Ohio and the Pittsburgh area, to compete in the various age groups.
“There are not really many tournaments around like this,” Rooney said. “It’s a pretty cool environment and shows how different streetball is from organized basketball.”
Last year’s event drew 45 teams from mainly western Pa. and eastern Ohio. One of the highlights of the day is a slam dunk competition.
“I didn’t think it’d get this big. I didn’t have any expectations; I just wanted to see if we could get some new hoops,” Rooney said. “Now, it’s turned into something people are looking forward to and drawing some of the best talent around. People have told me they’ve been practicing for a while for this.”
All proceeds from the event go to improvements at the court. So far, Rooney has been able to fund new glass backboards and plans to resurface the court before this year’s event.
“It has had an overall positive impact. There are more people in the park now. If you go down there on any given day, there are 50 kids or more there after school. Union Township has been great in supporting this,” he said. “We all take pride in it. We don’t let kids smoke up there and there’s no alcohol — just basketball. There are never any fights. There’s just mutual respect. Those new hoops are pretty nice and they’ve been up for a year and no one has done anything bad to them. Everyone supports the same thing — they just want to play basketball.
“Giving kids, young or old, a place to play keeps them out of potentially bad situations. I think it’s had a positive impact in a good way for Union and New Castle.”
Rooney hopes the court will continue to help many generations of local basketball players.
“When we were younger, this is where we played. The high school guys were grooming us. Union won a WPIAL title in 2003 and we played against those guys. People from Union watched out for each other. Then, my senior year, we won a section title and had a good playoff run. Part of the reason why is we got good at playing together and playing good competition.
“There were a few years where the kids weren’t coming to the court and they weren’t getting enough good competition. Union got good again because those kids went up there playing. We’re trying to get the younger kids up there playing now because we want to see the school do well in the future.”
BEHIND THE SCENES
Rooney enlists a large volunteer force to pull off the event. Some of his classmates and friends help with the website design and spreading the word about the tournament.
“I am thankful for everyone who has supported it and helped me with everything,” he said.
This year, Rooney added Pizza Joe’s as the title sponsor of the event.
“I invited (Pizza Joe’s founder Joe Seminara) to be a guest judge for last year’s dunk contest and he said he wanted to be involved this year, too,” Rooney said. “In past years, people looked at me a little funny when I asked for help or donations. They didn’t know how serious it is. Not only do I get his credibility with putting his name in front of it, but he puts brochures in all his stores. So, that’s great.”
RAIN OR SHINE
Rooney said the weather has cooperated for the first two years. In case of rain this year, he hopes to work out an agreement to move the tournament inside Union High School or push the event back a day.
“I just hope people come out and support the cause. It’s a positive environment. It’s exciting. There will be games in all age brackets going on from noon until late at night,” he said. “The court is going to be looking pretty good. I am going to have to find a different charitable cause to raise money for now.”
NEW CASTLE —
Jordon Rooney just wanted some new hoops.
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