Ball on board: Sneaks Summer Classic basketball tournament bounces after pandemic in its third year

There was a lot of fuss at the La Jolla Recreation Center on July 17 as local basketball players gathered for the annual Sneaks Summer Classic tournament.

The court was in session from 9 a.m., with around 120 players spread across 16 teams. The teams sent five members at a time to two courts as the tournament progressed through elimination rounds.

The winning team, 5 O’clock Cowboys, took home the Sneaks Trophy for the second time in a row, with members receiving hats proclaiming them 2021 champions.

“It was fun,” said Andre Murphy, member of the winning team. “I love playing.”

Two teams fought for the championship trophy after the tournament field was reduced to 16 original teams.

(Elisabeth Frausto)

As the teams battled, coffee and taco kiosks, a DJ booth, and merchandise tables lined the edges of the courts.

“It’s a community-wide event,” said tournament co-founder Sawsun Khodapanah. “It’s a fun day for the whole community to hang out, have fun and interact with each other.”

“I’m delighted to be part of it,” said Isaac Cadesky as he stretched ahead of his team’s opener. “I just want to go out and have a good time.”

Mahlon Thomas said his participation in the tournament was “really about the people you meet and the competition. It’s a mixture of that.

Thomas’ teammate Obi Ukwuoma said: “I love [basketball]. Crush it, let’s just play.

“You become a different person in basketball, you get lost in it,” he said.

The tournament began with 16 teams each sending five players to the courts at La Jolla Leisure Center for a playoff match.

The Sneaks Summer Classic tournament began with 16 teams each sending five players to the courts at La Jolla Recreation Center for a playoff game.

(Elisabeth Frausto)

This was the third edition of the tournament, which was kicked off in 2018 by Khodopanah and his 2013 La Jolla high school graduate colleague Tyson Youngs. Sneaks did not take place last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Youngs said tournaments always bring “good energy and good competition.”

“There are a lot of good players here this year,” Khodapanah said.

Khodapanah said he and Youngs grew up playing basketball together on the courts at the recreation center. “It’s definitely an important place for both of us; we spent a lot of hours here, ”Khodapanah said.

Youngs said that starting a basketball tournament was because he was “really motivated to create something of my own. Doing it with one of my best friends… was another kind of motivator.

Youngs, who lives in Ocean Beach and works in commercial real estate brokerage while running a store on Amazon, said he’s still a member of the La Jolla community. He meets Khodapanah at the Recreation Center two or three times a week to play basketball and coach a local youth basketball program.

Sawsun Khodopanah (left) and Tyson Youngs, both 2013 La Jolla High graduates, play basketball at La Jolla Rec Center every week.

Sawsun Khodopanah (left) and Tyson Youngs, both graduating from La Jolla High School in 2013, play basketball at La Jolla Recreation Center every week.

(Elisabeth Frausto)

Khodapanah, who is studying for his MBA at San Diego State University, owns the clothing company Sneaks, which he set up to sell shoes. It developed after the shirts, hats, and other merchandise from the first Sneaks basketball tournament became popular.

“The tournament gave birth to the brand with this first shirt,” he said.

Youngs, who participated in baseball and track and field at the College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts and played basketball, baseball and football in high school, said “the best way to make friends is through basketball. . It’s such a social aspect of my life.

“The other half… is that I’m a competitor and I love to win,” he said. “Basketball is a great place to express yourself and regain the dynamism of competition.”

Khodapanah said, “Basketball is always one of the best ways to meet people. It’s my favorite thing in the world. It’s a great way … for kids to get out of trouble and do something productive, rather than running around all over the place.

Khodapanah said he hopes that “over the years the tournament becomes a classic summer tradition” that residents of La Jolla and beyond can enjoy.

“We want to give San Diego… a stake in the basketball community and something cool to claim and to be proud of,” he said.

Youngs added, “We created this event, but it’s on our court, this place where we grew up playing basketball, and that’s the selfish satisfaction factor for me. … This is where everything falls back into place.

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