By Bill Landon
A three-on-three basketball tournament took center stage at the Centereach pool and park complex July 15.
In the second year of the Above the Rim tournament, sponsored by Brookhaven Town Councilman Kevin LaValle (R-Selden), boys and girls competed in separate sessions for a championship title.
With new courts, backboards and rims, and a new spray park, walking trail and pickleball courts, the park complex has undergone multiple renovations since LaValle took office four years ago.
“I grew up about a mile from here, and I grew up playing basketball, so when I got elected to office we redid this whole facility,” the councilman said. “For me, growing up here, it’s a way to give back to the community. These are new courts and the message we wanted to get out was ‘hey, the courts are back and with the pool, the playground, the tennis and pickleball courts, there’s something for the whole family.”
The park property has a cellular telephone tower on its west side that the town parks department leases to wireless communications carriers. Until LaValle took office that revenue, almost $60,000 a year according to the councilman, went into the town’s general fund. But he changed that.
“One of the first resolutions I passed was to put that money back into this park, because it’s on the park’s property,” LaValle said. “So that’s how we redid the basketball courts, the walking trail and the spray park. It’s a beautiful facility. You don’t get many parks like this in any township let alone Brookhaven.”
The Middle Country Booster Club, the Middle Country Public Library, the Centereach Fire Department, the Suffolk County Police Department’s Community Oriented Police Enforcement unit and the Selden and Centereach civic associations attended the event.
The girls had the benefit of an overcast sky and cooler temperatures in the morning, where Kanesha Strider, Jacqueline Mannix and Brianna LaValle took home the title.
Strider, a Longwood junior and three-year varsity player, passed on another event to take part in the tournament.
“Basketball brings me here — I love basketball,” she said. “I could’ve went to a party today, but basketball is very important [to me]. This is a great opportunity and you don’t get stuff like this in Longwood.”
Mannix, a Sachem North junior who is on the varsity squad at her school, played in the tournament at the urging of someone else.
“It was my friend and teammate who convinced me to play today,” she said. “I played in last year’s tournament, too.”
North Babylon junior LaValle, the councilman’s niece, said she came out for the tournament for two reasons.
“It’s for the love of the game,” she said. “And I did this with my friends last year. We love to get out on the court. It’s cool that they made just a girls thing this year.”
The boys competed in the evening, where Centereach varsity boys basketball players stole the show. Senior Chris Witherspoon and juniors Josh Washington and Stephen Cartolano placed first.
“When you come down here on any day, you have kids running around, kids playing basketball, people swimming, seniors playing pickleball, so it’s a multi-dimensional park to say the least,” LaValle said. “There are so many things you can do in one place and the parents love to bring the kids down here, so it’s really a unique facility.”