Hoops for a cause: Youth basketball tournament provides scholarships, advocacy

In the spring of 2005, Bishop Ryan freshman Andrew Crockett collapsed during track and field practice. He was one of a growing number of young athletes with rare, tough-to-detect heart conditions who died suddenly and unexpectedly.

After Andrew’s passing, the Bishop Ryan students kept the Crocketts involved in the school and its activities – something Bob Crockett, Andrew’s father, said helped the family through its grieving process.

The Crocketts wanted to return the favor.

Bob and his wife, Carla, started a youth basketball event called the Andrew Crockett Memorial Basketball Tournament the following year. Basketball was Andrew’s favorite sport, and hosting teams like the ones Andrew had played on seemed like a fitting tribute.

Through seven years, Bob said, the Crocketts have given out more than 100 scholarships of $500 apiece to Bishop Ryan students. All the proceeds from the tournaments go toward the scholarship fund, but Bob said the Crocketts have awarded some scholarship money out-of-pocket.

“After Andrew passed away, it was a way to give back to the school and the students – especially Andrew’s class – for what they’ve done for us,” Bob said. “Andrew’s class took us under their wings and kept us active all the way through their high school careers.

“We could’ve just turned and went into our homes, shut the door and not come out, and they wouldn’t allow that to happen.”

The eighth edition of the boys tournament began Saturday, featuring players in grades 5-8. Thirty-two teams – including ones from Regina, Saskatchewan, Grand Forks, Watford City and Beulah – converged at Bishop Ryan for a total of 48 games over two days. The girls event was last weekend.

“We’re not just trying to buy new uniforms, this is a legitimate cause to help kids,” said Bob Daws, who relieved the Crocketts from their tournament managing duties this year.

In addition to raising money for scholarships, the tournaments serve as an avenue for advocacy.

On a display table outside Bishop Ryan’s main gym, photos and athletic gear commemorating Andrew’s short sports career were accompanied by pamphlets for an organization called Parent Heart Watch. The pamphlets included warning signs of cardiac problems, advice on saving victims of sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) and statistics – including the estimate that thousands of children die of SCA in the United States each year.

“We’ve met at each (Parent Heart Watch) convention 80 families that have, one way or another, gone through the same exact thing we have,” Bob Crockett said. “Not having any (known) heart condition, and then they collapse right there.”

Daws said several referees call each year wanting to work the tournament and some teams come from out of town strictly for the cause.

Kevin Bohl – whose sons, Jacob and Ben, were competing – said the event was a good way to “keep Andrew’s name alive.” Kevin’s daughter Gabbie, a starter for Bishop Ryan’s state championship girls basketball team, also played in the tournament when she was younger.

“This is special because my kids go to school here and a lot of kids go to school here,” Kevin Bohl said. “We want to try to help out as much as we can.”