The future is now … Biddy World Tournament returns to Thibodaux

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Every aspiring basketball player has one thing in common – a dream.

For most, that dream traces its earliest roots back to one place – Biddy Basketball.

The next generation of basketball dreamers showcased their stuff in the Tri-parish area this week when Thibodaux’s Harang Auditorium hosted the Biddy World Tournament.

A total of 15 teams (some from as far as Kansas) totaling more than 100 boys and 1 girl turned out for the event, which showcased some of tomorrow’s brightest stars in the world of hoops.

“This is a great event,” Thibodaux All-Stars coach L.J. Tabor said. “The kids get excited to play on that big, old floor in front of a good bit of people. It’s a great thing for the kids and it’s something that they really and truly enjoy.”

“It’s beautiful,” Biddy Basketball National Director Firmin Simms added. “Everything has gone smoothly. The kids are doing what they always do – running up and down and playing hard. It’s a beautiful thing to see these young ones have that joy doing something they are learning to love to do.”

This year marked the 16th-straight year Thibodaux hosts the annual event.

The decision to return to the area annually is an easy one, according to Simms, who said “class people” like tournament director and local chiropractor Dr. Mickey Jennings, make the event one of the best tournaments in the country.

“Having good people goes a long way,” Simms said. “And they also get so much help. The whole community really rallies around it. We’ve been having it here for this long, we’re not about to change it now.

“The city likes having us here. I can promise you that we like to come here, too.”

The director’s sentiments hold firm footing with several coaches, who agree the people of Thibodaux are one of a kind.

“The city has been great. They have shown us unbelievable hospitality,” Dallas All-Stars coach Jerome Rogers said. “They treat us just like we’re one of their own. This was my first time here, but I wouldn’t mind coming back.”

“They have taken care of everyone wonderfully,” Morgan City All-Stars coach Mark Morell. “We have absolutely no complaints about the tournament. Everything has been just great.”

The people are one thing, but facilities are another.

Simms said the Harang Auditorium is a perfect venue for a youth basketball tournament.

He added the look on the player’s faces when they arrive and see the empty seats is priceless.

“There’s a lot of wide eyes,” Simms said. “A lot of them have never seen anything like it. They are just on top of the world. They think they are doing the same things like the guys on TV. They have their time to shine. There’s nothing like it.”

“Real big eyes,” Morell agreed with a laugh. “When we walked in the first day, that was the thing easiest to notice – those eyes. It took a couple of games to get used to it, but once the kids feel at home, it’s just like they are playing in the backyard.”

Don’t let the wide eyes and the nervous energy fool you – these kids can play some ball.

Simms said when he played Biddy in the 1950s, 12-year-old children played on the same eight and one half-foot baskets used throughout the week by the 7s and 8s.

If the same rules were in place today, Simms said he already knows what would happen.

“If they did that now, wow, gosh, they’d hit their head on the rim,” Simms said with a laugh. “The game has evolved so much. The kids have so much more exposure to it. They see it on TV, in video games and everywhere around them. They are starting younger and are becoming more polished players.”

Of the polished players in the event, several call the Tri-parish area home.

Thibodaux, Raceland, Houma, South Lafourche and Morgan City all had teams in the event.

Morgan City advanced the farthest of the bunch, making it all the way to the semifinals.

The winner of the tournament was the Mandeville All-Stars, who outlasted New Orleans in the finals.

Simms said he never plays favorites when watching the event, but he always has an inkling about who will walk away from the event a world champion.

“Take a pick of the Louisiana team,” Simms said. “They get more training here and have more on court experience. Every once in a while, you’ll see one of the other teams jump up and surprise you, but for the most part, Louisiana has the best odds.”

Stepping away from wins and losses, everyone involved says the event has three goals.

The first is to teach fundamentals.

Biddy uses a smaller basketball and a lower hoop. That’s designed to place children in a more comfortable environment where they can properly learn the game.

“If they don’t learn it right the first time, they may never,” Simms said.

The second is to create lifelong memories.

Rogers, who played college basketball at North Texas before playing professionally overseas, said he still remembers when he played Biddy. He touts the days of his youth were some of the best of his career.

“I had that,” Rogers said. “And now I just want to share that with my son so that he could have the same thing.”

“I went through this with my older son, too,” Tabor said. “He enjoyed it. He still talks about it. It’s a real memory builder.”

And lastly, the organization hopes to keep the dream burning bright.

Simms said he reminds everyone that players such as Charlotte Bobcats guard DJ Augustin played Biddy.

“I can still see little DJ running around like he was one of these kids here,” Simms said.

The national director added that countless other former Biddy stars went on to play collegiately.

“That’s the goal,” Simms said. “Let that round ball pay for you a good education.”

Whether it will or won’t for these kids, that’s years away from playing out.

But whatever the future holds, the journey usually starts in the same place.

“The dream starts here,” says Dallas native Jerome Rogers as he surveys an empty hardwood floor. “This is where it all begins.”

St. Phillip’s Biddy standout Deonte Garner makes a move on a Morgan City defender during this past week’s Biddy World Tournament.