Players get shining moment at State Basketball Tournament

posted Sun, Apr 2, 2017 by Jon Buzby

The Newark Dragons Green team was honored with the Dick Nolan Sportsmanship Award at the conclusion of the tournament.

A 3 on 3 half-court tournament was held for the first time as part of the 2017 State Basketball Tournament.

NEWARK – The calendar might read that it’s April, but the cheers echoing throughout the Bob Carpenter Center this weekend made it sound more like March … as in March Madness.

More than 450 athletes and Unified partners competed in the 2017 Special Olympics Delaware State Basketball Tournament in front of hundreds of families and friends. The event was managed by volunteers from the event's sponsor, Farmers Insurance, and dozens of basketball officials from IAABO Board 11. 

“This is the highlight of the season for our players, just like any championship would be,” SODE senior director of sports Gary Cimaglia said of the event. “And the fact that they get to play in the state’s premier basketball facility makes it that much more fun for them.”

In addition to round-robin and bracketed tournaments involving more than 30 teams, a Young Athletes demonstration and an Individual Skills Competition were offered. And for the first time in the tournament’s 40-plus year history, three teams -- Newark Dragons Yellow, Kent Wild Kats Tigers and Wilmington Wizards 76ers -- competed in a 3 on 3 half-court tournament.

“The 3 on 3 gives athletes who would ordinarily not get the opportunity to interact in the game as much as others the ability to participate with athletes on their same playing level,” Wild Kats coach Kathy Denney explained. “And it also obviously gives them even more opportunities to practice and hone their skills.”

Offering the 3 on 3 level of competition allowed some players who had traditionally been in the individual skills competition an opportunity to play in a competitive game in meaningful roles as part of a team.

“Adding this level gives these players an opportunity to truly be part of a team,” Wilmington Wizards coach David Robinson said in between games. “It’s just so much fun to see players who in the past would kind of keep to themselves or didn’t consider themselves part of a team, now laughing and joking around with teammates and genuinely having fun playing basketball.”

The weekend culminated with the awarding of the annual Dick Nolan Sportsmanship award to the Newark Dragons Green team. The award was created to honor the long-time SODE board member who was an avid basketball fan and the father of a Special Olympics athlete.

“Dick would always say his favorite part of Special Olympics basketball was the sportsmanship displayed, win or lose, by everyone involved,” SODE executive director Ann Grunert said.