The turnout is huge. The parking lot fills to capacity, then overflows over into the parking lot across the street. The crowd is enthusiastic but not obnoxious. Yes, it is basketball, but on a “whole ‘nother level.” It’s Saturday morning at Cornerstone United Methodist Church, and the kids have assembled for Kingdom Basketball.
Doug Shugert is running up and down the floor – “Gold ball this way!” he shouts. He is having as much fun as the children.
“We’ve been doing it now for 10 years,” Shugert says as he attempts to rid himself of the sweat from the game he just officiated and gets his breath for the next game, just five minutes away. “Kids ages 4 years through sixth grade play eight weeks. Kids have an awesome opportunity to have success because we offer automatic rotation where kids play an equal amount of time. We have devotions and prayer at each game and it’s just a great opportunity for us to witness to the community and to have fun with the kids.”
Shugert is one of those rare people who gives of himself because of his love for his faith and his community and it shows. The program features on-court instruction and patience, and he epitomizes that practice.
“We knew there was a need in the community,” Shugert said. ‘When kids get older and they get to high school age, they stop trying out anymore and we don’t want the high schools to suffer because there’s not enough players to try out for a team anymore.”
Shugert got serious about a problem that has been around for a long time and now Kingdom Basketball is trying to address the issue.
“What happens is, even in this age group, we have kids that sit the bench, then once they sit the bench for a couple of years they don’t even want to try anymore,” Shugert said. “So even though their skills haven’t caught up to the body yet, they’ve given up on the sport. So there’s nowhere to play anymore. So we just wanted to make sure it’s fun for everybody.”
Cornerstone had the largest sign-up in years this year with 203 children participating.
One of the enthusiastic people in the crowd is former Portsmouth Mayor David Malone.
“I have a grandson, Cedric Davis II who plays here,” Malone said. “He loves to come here very much. He looks forward to it throughout the whole week. It’s really good for the community, for the church and the kids all around.”
The children are getting restless. It’s time for the next game to start.
“I think I get here at 7:30 (a.m.) and I go home at 7:30 (p.m.),” Shugert said as his smile overcomes his exhaustion.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Shugert said.