Archive for Thursday, February 23, 2006

Tournament honors memory of Bobcats’ biggest hoops fan

February 23, 2006

The sounds of bouncing basketballs and squeaking shoes filled nearly every gym in Basehor last Saturday and Sunday.

It was a fitting way for the town to remember JB Stinnett Jr.

Basehor-Linwood High School hosted a massive basketball tournament last weekend in tribute to Stinnett, a long-time youth basketball coach in the area. Stinnett, who died in late December at age 52, was a fixture at almost every BLHS basketball game and was loved by many players, past and present.

A total of 57 teams registered for last weekend's JB Stinnett Memorial Tournament, with each team paying a $175 entry fee. After tournament expenses were paid, all proceeds went to a memorial fund for Stinnett's family. Almost $10,000 was raised through entry fees alone, but much more than that came in, because of a variety of other fund-raisers.

Tournament T-shirts were on sale all weekend for $12-15 a piece. The shirts included the names of all the teams and were emblazoned with the number 53, which signified the year Stinnett was born and the number he wore throughout his basketball career.

Spectators paid an admission fee, and proceeds from that and the concessions stand also went to the fund. There were a number of prizes donated by local businesses available through a raffle. The tournament's organizer, Jeremy McDowell, of Independent Tournaments, estimated that $1,000 was raised through the raffle. He added that totals of the money raised through the entire tournament hadn't yet been compiled, but that he saw it as an unqualified success.

McDowell said he had originally hoped to register 20-25 teams for the tournament, but that he ended up with 57 and actually had to turn away 19 teams. To staff such a big event he set out 450 volunteer shifts.

Those were also filled easily and, again, he had to turn people away.

"I believe that is a true testimony to how much JB meant to so many of us," McDowell wrote in an e-mail thanking volunteers. "I know Pam, JB's wife, was in attendance for most of this tourney and she was very moved and touched by the support of everyone in the community."

Raising money was clearly part of the tournament, but so was honoring Stinnett. In the front lobby of the high school a board entitled "Memories of JB" was set up on a table. Tournament participants and attendees were encouraged to write down things they remembered about Stinnett on note cards and then paste them on the board. By Saturday night three-fourths of the board was already covered in cards.

The tournament featured boys and girls teams from grades three through eight, and a men's and women's division for the older players. For most of the younger kids the weekend was just another excuse to play basketball. But the men's and women's divisions drew in a number of BLHS employees and alumni, many of whom knew Stinnett. For them it was an opportunity to reconnect with some friends and to lace up the sneakers for a good cause.

The women's division was won by a team that included a number of recent BLHS graduates, including Alex Jeannin, Lindsay Cunningham, Aubrey Bittel, Samantha Paterson, Terra Nichols and Nicole Kirk. Kirk, who played basketball for BLHS and graduated in 2004, now attends Kansas State. She came all the way from Manhattan for the weekend to see her family and play ball with some old friends.

Kirk said Stinnett never coached her, but she knew him, and he was one of the Lady Bobcats' biggest supporters back when she played.

"He kind of knew everybody," Kirk said.

The winning team in the men's division also had a heavy BLHS flavor. The team featured principal Steve Blankenship and Lady Bobcats assistant coach Noah Simpson, as well as a number of former Bobcats. Simpson, who has been on the BLHS coaching staff for three years, said he had seen Stinnett touch the lives of several players.

"Since I was a little kid he was around helping," Simpson said. "He always had a smile on his face no matter what the outcome of the game was. He was never negative. If you lost the game he came out and talked to you and was really nice. If you won the game it was the same thing. He was just a great guy."

The tournament is long over now, but there are still plenty of opportunities for Basehor residents to show their appreciation for Stinnett.

The memorial fund remains open and donations marked "JB Stinnett Jr. Memorial Fund" can be sent First State Bank and Trust. Also, T-shirt sales were the one area of the tournament that McDowell said he was disappointed in, saying he expected to sell more.

Shirts are still available for purchase through McDowell, who can be reached by phone at (913) 980-4111 or via e-mail at mcdowell@independenttournaments.com.

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