INNISFAIL – Ever since Rollin Morris was 10-years-old he always wanted to do something important for the game he loves.
That passion was on an Innisfail basketball court; one he knows well as a key driving force since 2017 behind the town’s Friday Night Basketball Drop-In program.
For almost three decades Morris has been a passionate hoopster, and now nearly 40 he wanted to bring that passion to the young in the town that has embraced his enduring devotion for the game.
His son Roman is about the same age and a junior basketball player for The Outlaws team on the court of the main gym of Innisfail High School on Feb. 18 for Innisfail’s first-ever 3-on-3 Basketball Tournament; an event Morris painstakingly organized.
“He wasn't sure if he was going to do well in his first tournament but he was able to be in his first tournament before his birthday next week," said Morris. "And he did pretty good. He made it to the semifinals.
“For me, it was a dream come true, something I’ve dreamt of since I was 10-years-old like my son, and full circle as he was able to be in his first tournament,” added Morris, noting he also lost in his first tourney.
“From that point on I realized that no matter how good your skill set is you have to learn how to win as a team, so you can win something as a team.”
Most of the more than 60 players who participated in the Innisfail tourney seized that wisdom, with the younger ones – like Roman – just learning to catch on.
There was a total of 12 teams - eight adult and four junior - taking part, with up to 100 basketball fans attending and cheering the unique court action of 3-on-3 play.
The Redeemers from Sylvan Lake came out on top for the adults, while Different Sizes, a squad made up from young hoopsters from Rocky Mountain House and Ponoka, claiming the tourney crown for the juniors.
It was the same junior team Morris coaches in the fall.
“I try to be in a safe space where everybody can come and talk to me. I just watch them play from the sideline,” he said proudly.
While the one-day tournament was masterminded by Morris – with some volunteer help – the action on Feb. 18 was keenly watched by Town of Innisfail officials, who are always on the hunt for events that prove to be popular and attract a good turnout, including participants and fans for outside of town.
“I thought it was an awesome day. It was really cool to see as many teams out as we did,” said Kane Williams, the town’s recreation program coordinator. “It was a great mix of local players and people from around the region and even from some of the larger cities, like Edmonton.
“It was great celebration of basketball. People were there just to be part of the community and enjoy themselves, and I think that was clear with the competition that we saw that day. I thought it was a huge success.”
With the first-ever 3-on-3 tourney now in the books, Morris said its success “exceeded his expectations” and he’s already thinking ahead to next year; the same time and venue.
He liked the idea of the event playing out on Family Day weekend, noting it attracted not only parents, but many grandparents, uncles and aunts.
“I just find that what I've caught from the whole experience is that it gave the kids an opportunity to showcase their skill set. It goes a long way,” said Morris. “The buck doesn't stop here after they won or lost the tournament.
“One guy came over to me and said, ‘I can't wait until you do the next tournament because this was really awesome'.”