Budding hoops stars enjoy Nuggets Skills Challenge

Caleb Hicks, 8, makes a bounce pass Sunday during the Denver Nuggets Skills Challenge in Palisade. The free event let basketball players compete in three challenges, dribbling, shooting and passing. It was the first year Palisade Parks and Recreation hosted the event in Palisade.

She can barely push the ball up to the basket, but 8-year-old Addie Steele loves basketball.

With her mom, Jennifer, and little sister, Ella, cheering her on, Addie competed in the Denver Nuggets Skills Challenge in Palisade on Sunday afternoon for children ages 7-14.

“I like dribbling the best,” Addie said. “And shooting is fun, too.”

Ella, who turns 7 before the May 2012 cutoff, decided she liked dribbling, too, and signed up at the last minute.

“After watching my sister dribbling,” Ella said when asked about entering.

Ella’s hands barely fit around the ball, but her interest in basketball, her mom said, is one of the most important benefits events like the Skills Challenge provide.

“It gives them a taste of different sports,” Jennifer said. “I think it gives them a desire to compete at a very young age.”

The free event is statewide competition that lets youngsters compete in three different challenges, with the highest combined score in each age bracket advancing to sectionals. The challenges include timed dribbling through a cones course, shooting as many baskets as possible in one minute (points based on different distances from the basket), and hitting a target a little bigger than one square foot with three bounce passes and three chest passes. Points are awarded based on preset times for dribbling and the number of buckets and passes made.

This is the first year Palisade Parks and Recreation hosted the competition in Palisade. Sarah Brooks, event coordinator at Palisade Parks and Recreation, said large turnouts in Fruita and Grand Junction was one reason she decided to bring the event to Palisade.

“Fruita had 30 to 40 kids show up,” she said. “In October we did a trick or treat street event for free, and these free events typically have a high turnout because they’re more accessible to lower income families than our drop-in events.”

Sectionals are in February, with state following closely after. Brooks said dates and locations for those events have not been determined.

The event didn’t just attract grade-school children. Alyson Shuman is a seventh-grader who plays basketball at Mount Garfield Middle School.

“It’s about getting out there and just having something to do on weekends,” Shuman said.


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