Mesh Refresh Part 2
Taking part in the Niagara River Lions’ Mesh Refresh initiative by helping to install new basketball meshes at Partridge Park Tuesday brought back fond memories for players Lloyd Pandi and Jahvon Henry-Blair.
For Pandi, his first outdoor court experience was at Riverside Park in Ottawa.
“I would always shoot there outside and once I moved to a bigger neighbourhood I would shoot on my neighbour’s hoop all the time.”
The outdoor hoops at Riverside Park were nothing like the excellent court at Partridge Park.
“It was pretty dumpy because we had no nets and no rims and I was basically shooting on the backboard,” Pandi said. “I feel that is where I got my knack for going to the rim because I always had to shoot at the square and visualize it as a rim or net.”
Occasionally, he would change things up.
“The substitute I would have is that my dad bought a mini hoop and my cousin and I would play on the mini hoop at our house.”
He eventually moved from Ottawa to Orleans and would play on the nets outside the Maple Ridge Community Centre
Pandi loves the River Lions’ program.
“It shows that we support the community and we are here to show our faces and make them realize that we are no different than them,” he said. “We were in their shoes at one point in our lives. Doing a good thing for them can really help them in the long run and it’s memories that they can have just like I have.”
Henry-Blair’s outdoor courts memories are centred around a park near his grandmother’s house in Mississauga.
“I had a couple of friends who lived across the street and I would go there every day to see them and work on my game just like the kids here,” he said. “It was an environment just like this and I was just trying to get better just like all these kids. I was six years old.”
His childhood park wasn’t that much different than Partridge Park.
“The meshes weren’t really there but the rims were really nice. It was shootable.”
The memories of those days remain in his mind.
“It was just going there every day and hoping to see my friends. Rain, snow, it didn’t matter. We couldn’t really dribble in the snow but we would shoot. Every day it didn’t matter what it looked like outside. We would try to play.”
The parks and recreation departments of Thorold and St. Catharines assisted in identifying which parks would receive the new Spalding meshes.
“Our team is excited to re-launch this initiative for the second summer in a row,” said Michelle Biskup, vice president of operations for the River Lions. “Replacing or adding a mesh on a basketball rim is such a small task, yet it makes a big difference, so we are proud to dedicate time towards enhancing the playing experience at parks across the region.”
The move was applauded by both cities.
“On behalf of city council, I’d like to thank the Niagara River Lions for generously donating new mesh basketball netting at South Confederation Park and Beaverdams Village Park in the City of Thorold. Partnerships like this play a crucial role in strengthening and enhancing our community,” Thorold mayor Terry Ugulini said. “We hope to inspire our youth and residents of all ages to show off their basketball skills and help break in the new nets.”
St. Catharines feels the same way.
“The City of St. Catharines welcomes partnerships that enhance our recreational facilities for the benefit of our community. This partnership with the River Lions is a fantastic opportunity to spruce up the nets at Barley Drive Park, Glengarry Park and Partridge Park, while at the same time inspiring the youth in our community to get active and improve their basketball skills,” St. Catharines mayor Mat Siscoe said.
The River Lions are now in the process of getting ready for the Canadian Elite Basketball League championship weekend Aug. 11-13 in Langley, B.C.
Pandi is working his way back from an injury.
“I am doing well right now. I am just recovering and hopefully I can get clearance next weekend to play in the championship weekend but I am doing better.”
He is anticipating he will be ready to go.
“I am confident because I am feeling a lot better and I am trying to make sure everything goes as planned.”
He admits it wasn’t easy to miss games down the stretch.
“It was tough but I had confidence in my team. We knew that we had the best team in the league and the deepest team. I wasn’t worried that we weren’t going to finish the season how we did and I was confident in our chemistry and camaraderie.”