When Drew Taylor took over as recreational director at Faith Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Brooksville more than a year ago, he wanted to provide the community with a safe environment and an athletic outlet.
With the summer upon us, that mission has never been more important with many kids sitting around the house. The inaugural 3-on-3 basketball tournament and 3-Point Shootout at the church is one of the many solutions Taylor instituted.
"Our No. 1 goal is that anyone who comes into the gym has a different experience than playing anywhere else," Taylor said. "We have certain expectations on character and behavior. Most of all, we want everyone to have fun."
While the event didn't live up to Taylor's original expectations, he was pleased with how teens and other children reacted to the tournament. Last weekend at the gymnasium on the church grounds, winners were crowned in both the team event and 3-point contest. All who placed were awarded gift certificates to local businesses that sponsored the event.
The first-place team was captained by recent Hernando High graduate Lamon Neal. A football and basketball star with the Leopards, Neal has no shortage of praise for what the church and Taylor provide to the community.
"The church offers an indoor court out of the hot sun," Neal said. "Drew is a great guy, and he's very helpful to everyone who comes in."
Neal's team defeated Purple Haze 15-11 in the championship game. Purple Haze was made up of current Hernando High athletes, and the captain was Leopards' junior Thomas Bronson. Another member, Hernando senior Robert Huggins, won the 3-Point Shootout making nine in a minute from behind the arc in the first round and 11 in a minute in the second round.
"I thought the whole tournament was great," Bronson said. "It's great to have things at the church for us to do instead of being outside all the time."
Overall, the tournament included four teams with 25 players. Originally, seven squads registered for the event, but three dropped out. Taylor wouldn't call the event a disappointment, but there are a number of things he feels need to be done differently for next summer's tournament.
"Next time, I'll contact some of the schools in the area before they let out to let kids know about this," Taylor said. "Although we want to offer something year-round for the community, the schools do close in the summer and close down their facilities, and we like to give these kids an outlet."
All of the profits from the 3-on-3 event went directly back to the church's recreational program to help with the costs of the summer camp next month, the pending volleyball, basketball and soccer leagues and any other things that Taylor feels will help the area.
Of course, faith is a major part of the message the program sends. However, Taylor is more concerned about keeping the community safe and occupied during a time when so many are exposed to the opposite.
"There are higher expectations here," Taylor said. "We want to build lasting relationships."
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