The Hillsborough Township community lost a friend, mentor and coach this past April when Larry Smith Sr. passed away due to natural causes.
A member of the Hillsborough community since 1992, Smith coached basketball at the youth level in the township and around the Somerset County area, becoming an influential figure to young athletes, his son James said.
To honor his father and his impact on the community, James and his family created a Larry Smith Sr. Scholarship Memorial Fund that would be awarded to a student at Hillsborough High School to pursue their dream in college.
In their efforts to raise money for the scholarship fund, the Smith family, with help from their friends as well, set up a one-day three-on-three basketball tournament that was held on Aug. 14 at Hoop Heaven in Bridgewater.
Titled the Larry Smith Sr. Memorial 3-on-3 Basketball Tournament, teenagers and adults from around the surrounding area had the opportunity to create a team for $60 to compete in the tournament, with all the proceeds going toward the scholarship fund.
“We wanted to do something to honor him,” James Smith said of his father. “My dad coached basketball in Hillsborough and was an influential figure in Somerset County. It was a great event for people to come to watch and play good basketball and help a student live their dream down the road.”
A total of 26 teams signed up to compete in the tournament and were stationed in one of two divisions based on the age group.
As he watched some “good basketball” being played on the court of Hoop Heaven, James Smith was very happy with how the event to honor his father played out.
“It was a great day,” Smith said. “There is some great local talent in the Somerset County area. There were a lot of very competitive games. It was fun.”
Helping the Smith family put on the event were friends Matt Hornich, Anthony Stavrakis, Josh Goldstein, Marquise Moseley and Matt Westphal.
Smith said he is very grateful for how much his friends have supported him since his dad passed away and said they suggested he try to create an event like this.
With assistance from the Hillsborough Township Parks and Recreation Department, the original location for the tournament was Ann Van Middlesworth Park.
Ann Van Middlesworth Park was a “special” place for his father, James Smith said, adding that his dad would coach his players on the basketball courts at the park.
Plans changed, however, at the last minute to move the event to Hoop Heaven due to rainy weather conditions.
For signing up to play in the tournament, teams received a Larry Smith Sr. Memorial 3-on-3 Basketball Tournament T-shirt.
The two divisions on hand for the tournament were a middle school division and an 18-and-up division.
Team GRIT, which consisted of Amarilis Shubick, Maggie Kiessling, Amanda Rapel and Jules Ciconte, won the middle school division.
The 18-and-up division was won by Team LeBrontourage that featured Marvin Crawford, Kristian Svendsen, Brandon Summers and Dan Decker.
James Smith said he can’t confirm the total amount of money raised during the tournament, but said it was “a lot more than we envisioned.”
He added that many people came to the event to watch the games as spectators and donated money towards the cause.
“A lot of people came to watch and be a part of this in honor of my dad,” James Smith said.
James Smith will always remember the fond memories he had on the basketball court with his father.
Being his travel and recreation coach since he was in the fourth grade, James Smith credits his father’s coaching and teachings for helping him and some of his teammates lead the Hillsborough High School boys basketball team to win the Somerset County championship back in 2014.
James Smith also doesn’t forget how a scholarship from the Hillsborough community helped him live his dream of playing college basketball and believes creating one in honor of his dad to allow someone else to live their dream will keep that tradition going in Hillsborough.
When the tournament ended, James Smith and his family was thankful for the support they received from the Hillsborough community and the Somerset County area.
It meant a lot to them to see people try to honor their loved one’s memory and express how much he helped them in the past, he said.
“I want to thank everyone for believing in us to put together this event,” Smith said. “To these people, my dad had a small impact on their lives. I just want to say thank you to them for coming out and supporting us in his honor.”