Going Overtime: Zach Schwartz Memorial hoops tournament still creating scholarships after eight years
NEW CASTLE — Mike Cox feels the run that the Zach Schwartz Memorial 3-on-3 Basketball Tournament has made has been a pretty good one so far.
“I’ve talked to other people about this,” said Cox, who along with his wife, Kelley, are among those who help organize the annual tournament held at Riverside Middle School. “They’ve told me that if a memorial tournament lasts for two or three years, it’s done pretty well. It’s so great that after eight years, we’ve still got this thing going.”
And it’s still going strong, though not quite as strong as it has been in years past. The tournament drew a low of six four-player teams this year, which is down from the 16 teams it drew to the same spot a year ago.
Some of the players who came out to Saturday’s tournament have been more than faithful to the annual event. Some of them have been coming every year since the tournament started, not necessarily because they knew Zach but because of where the tournament proceeds go.
“I think it’s a way that people can give back to the community,” said Alicia Meki of Silt, a spectator at the tournament. “Plus there’s the scholarship part, and that means a lot to people.”
The tournament, which has drawn as many as 18 teams when it took place for the first time in 2007, benefits the Zach Schwartz Scholarship Fund. It awards a scholarship to a high school student from the area every year in an amount of no less than $1,000, but the first time gave three scholarships of $2,500 each. The proceeds from this year’s turnout wasn’t big enough to give away a $1,000 scholarship, but Desiree Carpenter, Zach’s mother, said there’s enough in the account already to award at least one scholarship. Overall, she estimated that close to $15,000 in scholarship money has been distributed among 10 students in eight years.
The scholarship is determined by Ken and Desiree — Zach’s parents — who look at each applicant and see who mirrors what Zach was taking on when he died in a car accident on July 4, 2006, on his way to basketball practice. Zach was involved in sports, was keeping his grades up (applicants are asked to have at least a 2.5 GPA) and was working a part-time job at the Miner’s Claim in Silt.
Schwartz played football and basketball in high school, but basketball was the true passion for the 6-foot-6 sophomore-to-be at Coal Ridge High. His catch phrase prior to his death was to tell people “you’re amazing!” It’s become the tournament’s catch phrase.
One person playing in the tournament, 21-year-old Nathan Terrin, knew Schwartz prior to his death, and he’s been playing in the tournament ever since. Another player, Derek Brown of Rifle, has played six of the eight years.
“I didn’t know him, but this is a fun tournament to come to every year no matter what,” he said. “All of the money goes to a good cause.”
Carpenter said she and other tournament organizers moved the tournament up from July to June this year just to try to make it easier for people to come, but their plans now are to move it back to July thanks to this year’s low turnout. But along with the date change, some tournament organizers admitted that time and the tournament field’s separation of association with Schwartz may have made a difference in the turnout.
The emotional and novelty aspect of initial memorial tournaments can play a part in turnout.
“I was at a 5-on-5 tournament in Gypsum last week. They drew 12 teams to that, and it was just a week before that the kid it was named after died,” said John Doose, a 1990 Glenwood Springs High grad and a self-proclaimed hoops junkie who has played in each of the eight tournaments. “They put that thing together in days.
“But this tournament, it’s got a good feel to it,” he added. “People aren’t out for blood and guts on the court. It’s a great atmosphere. No wonder it’s stuck around so long.”
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