By BOB ETTINGER
For the Star Beacon
The Westside Shootout is returning home.
After trying a couple of new venues over the last two of years, organizer Mike Osborne is bringing the event back to the West Avenue court.
“Most people seem to think it’s not the Westside Shootout if it’s not at the West Avenue court,” Osborne said. “That’s funny because Station Avenue is still on the west side. But they think if it’s not held on West Avenue, it’s not the Shootout.”
The 2013 edition of the Westside Shootout will be July 6 at 8 a.m. As has been the case for several years now, there will be no draft prior to the event.
“I have gotten away from the draft system,” Osborne said. “It was tradition. Some people say I’ve taken something away from the tournament doing something different.
“The last three or four years, we’ve gotten a lot of college players to play. It’s become a really competitive basketball tournament. It separates the weekend, yearly or wannabe basketball players who pick up playing to get ready for the tournament. We’re seeing guys who play basketball regularly. It’s helped to bring a different caliber of ballplayer.”
Osborne is, however, bringing back an old tradition for this year. There will be a dunk contest and a 3-point shooting contest on July 5 at 6 p.m.
“(The dunk contest) originally started out as part of the Shootout,” Osborne said. “Somehow, over the years, we got away from it. At the end of the tournament, everyone would gather around one of the baskets and whoever wanted to got involved. We’d all circle around and according to crowd reaction and participation, we’d determine who the winner was.
“A couple of people asked me about it a few years ago. I was talking with my brother and said, ‘Why not do it like the NBA? Why not do it on Friday?’ The word got out and it exploded. It brings a crowd out Friday night and gets them ready for Saturday. We’ll also have a DJ and we’ll play music after it’s done. We’ll use it to open the tournament.”
The return of the traditions will add to an event that’s long been important to the community.
“It’s really the only major community event we have that brings us back as a community,” Osborne said. “The community has kept this event alive.
“If you look at it, beside the NAACP event, it’s the only black community event in Ashtabula that brings the community together that weekend. It’s been the only event for quite some time. People look forward to the event, and not only the ballplayers. It’s a major part of the yearly schedule for people. They come back and stay for the weekend, or even the whole week.”
The Westside Shootout often has the young guys and the older guys going back and forth about which generation is better. It’s often quite interesting to hear the two groups banter.
“You know us old guys are,” Osborne said. “We’re always talking about back in the day. We’ll always say the older guys played with better fundamentals, were more skilled and knew the game better. The younger guys operate more on athleticism and don’t have the knowledge or understanding of the game that’s necessary.
“You hear the older players talk about back in the day we were total ballplayers and the younger guys only specialize in one thing. That’s the competitive nature of the older and younger generations.”
The young players even try and prove their point, at times.
“It’s comical,” Osborne said. “The guys go back and forth the whole tournament. The younger guys will challenge the older guys to get a squad. They even say they’ll play halfcourt.”
In the end, it’s that competitive nature of the players that drives the Westside Shootout.
“People don’t understand just how important it is to have bragging rights for the year,” Osborne said. “It’s unbelievable how bad the guys want to win this tournament. It’s really something for them to be able to say they won the 2013 Westside Shootout. It means something to me to hear them say how they came down and won the tournament.”
Ettinger is a freelance writer from Ashtabula.