INNISFAIL – Rollin Morris is a man not ready to let go of a dream.
When he was a young boy growing up in Jamaica, he loved the game of basketball.
He dreamed of playing professionally.
Limited opportunities prevented that but when he became an adult and moved to Canada his hoop dreams never faded.
He still loved the game and played competitively in men’s leagues as often as he could.
The 39-year-old Morris, who has lived in the Innisfail and area since 2014, began playing 3-on-3 tournaments across Central Alberta the same year, including in Red Deer, Penhold and Blackfalds.
But there was no organized hoop action in Innisfail. That changed in the fall of 2017 when the Town of Innisfail wanted to get a basketball program off the ground.
“We honestly didn't have the skill set in-house to be able to offer something like that,” said Kane Williams, recreation program coordinator for the Town of Innisfail. “So, it was Rollin and another volunteer at the time that took it on. Rollin was awesome with that.”
Williams said the Friday Night Basketball Drop-In program at Innisfail High School was initially created to focus on youth between the ages of 10 to 15.
He said the initiative also brought a new awareness basketball was more popular than many believed.
“We found out there's a huge appetite for basketball in Innisfail much bigger than just youth,” said Williams. “He was instrumental in helping us grow from that. It's a Friday night that's open to basically anybody who's 12 and up. There's a huge adult group that comes in and honestly, it's very competitive.”
As committed as Morris remained to that program, his basketball dream is now being raised to another level.
He's organizing Innisfail’s first-ever 3-on-3 Basketball Tournament; a one-day event at the main gym of the Innisfail High School on Saturday, Feb. 18.
The idea came from the many 3-on-3 basketball tourneys he has played in Central Alberta since 2014.
“Why is it we can’t have one in Innisfail? There's Filipinos that want to play basketball. There are guys that drive from Red Deer, from Sundre, Torrington and Three Hills who want to play,” said Morris. “They have friends who play there and they would love to be part of the tournament even if they don’t live in Innisfail.
His plan is to have 10 teams, six for adults and four for teenagers.
He said the entry fee for teens will be $250, while adults are a bit more at $300. If they sign up early there could be a discount of up to 20 per cent. All players will be given jerseys.
Morris said he’s hoping some teams from Calgary and Edmonton will participate, along with the three to four teams from Innisfail that are expected to enter.
With the young playing in the tournament, there is even more optimism the game of basketball can grow even further in Innisfail.
“I realized there's so much of a community that comes out for these tournaments, whether they’re parents or uncles who come out just to support,” said Morris. “It's something that is more than just kids playing hockey, or playing football in the summer. It’s something they can do in the winter, because for my own kids I don't want them sitting on their device or playing video games.
“They need to go out and play sports and learn to interact with other kids. I want kids to have the opportunity that I had growing up where I had people put in this type of work into a scrimmage, or pickup basketball.”
While Innisfail’s first-ever 3-on-3 Basketball Tournament is in the capable hands of Morris, the Town of Innisfail is supporting it.
Williams believes there is a “huge” basketball community in Innisfail ready to just take off.
“I don't think it's fully appreciated how important basketball is to people in Innisfail,” said Williams. “Honestly, we are really pleased that somebody's willing to take it on. The drop-in program is really great but to see somebody taking the next step is amazing.”