A Place to Play: The need for basketball courts

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Can basketball change the world? Or is that asking too much of a ball? But a ball has certainly helped over the generations, and there is every reason to believe it can do even more. Players come and go, but the spirit of basketball in the Northland is ever present. Even though hockey is a staple in our cold land here in the North, basketball and the need for more courts is becoming a big issue.

“Back in, like fifth grade when you used to write your biographies. Like, teachers would be like, describe yourself. And I would say basketball. And they would be like, well, say more. And I’m like, you don’t understand. It’s basketball. It connected me with almost everybody in my life,” says Dyami Starks, Director of Starks Academy in Duluth.

Starks lives and breathes basketball. He bases his philosophy on his late father, Will Starks, who is responsible for developing some of the best Northland players of all time (Anders & Bjorn Broman, Taylor Stafford to name a few). Having played at the D1 level, Starks knows every in-and-out of the game of basketball. He understands the nuances of the game and he instills that in his players daily.

“So I’m dyslexic, I’m not great at catching everything and I mix up my left and right, but he gets that. So he explains to me and breaks it down and it helps me better understand what’s going on,” says Karly Holm, a senior basketball player.

The need for more courts in Duluth is a huge topic and something Starks is well aware of as the basketball movement grows larger.

“As we continue to grow, it’s like, man, where are we going to? Where are we going to give all these kids the quality attention they deserve, a quality space that they can get better at? We need a bigger space, I mean, ideally a great space is 3 to 5 courts,” says Starks.

If you look in Duluth, there are a very limited number of spaces to play indoor basketball at. The Salvation Army Rookie Basketball Association is a prime example of that, as the youth play basketball on carpet.

“The carpet is the least ideal surface to be playing basketball. It is probably the number one thing that I would change about my position, I would change this carpet,” says Kris Mallet, whom is a part of the Salvation Army Rookie Basketball Association.

“There’s so many outdoor hockey rinks, the heritage centers really pulled together the hockey community. And so I think something for the Duluth basketball community that could pull everyone together and give them opportunity to come together and play would be awesome. We have on average, 6 to 700 kids a year that come through our program. We want them to have that opportunity to get in the gym and have their lives impacted by the sport of basketball,” says Mallet. 

“It doesn’t matter what income you have, what color you are, any of that. You just throw a ball on the court and the kids figure it out. And that’s the beauty of sport,” finishes Mallet.

That indeed is the beauty of the sport. It is accessible, all you need is a ball, a hoop, and a good heart to play. And perhaps basketball can change the world, and more courts in the Northland could truly make a difference.

To learn more about Starks Academy, click here: https://www.northlandhoops.com/

To learn more about the Salvation Army Rookie Basketball Association, click here: https://centralusa.salvationarmy.org/northern/Duluth/rookie-basketball-gallery/