Hoop City Tip Off engages community

Mar. 24—In celebration of the NCAA Division II Women's Basketball National Championship, the East Hills Mall transformed its center court into a basketball court for the Hoop City Tip-Off.

Saturday afternoon, children got to learn basic basketball drills and techniques from local coaches.

With help from the city's Park and Recreation department and Hillyard companies, the St. Joseph Missouri Sports Commission was able to engage the community in the excitement that is the National Championship Week.

"I think any time that you can expose kids to a big time event in town and teach them a little bit about the game and let them have some fun, it's always a win-win," Executive Director of the St. Joseph Missouri Sports Commission, Bretty Esely said. "Not a lot of communities get to host an NCAA National Championship, and so with that, I think it's really important to be able to engage and get out."

"Maybe if you come to an event like this and you...didn't necessarily have plans to go to any of the games," Esely said. "Well, hopefully if you picked up a bag tag or you picked up a schedule, you say 'I'm going to go check those games out.' And that's an important piece to the week as well."

Dozens of participants arrived at East Hills 11 a.m. Saturday morning, including Alicia Johnson and her son, Ryker.

"I was an athlete growing up myself," Alicia Johnson said. "So it's kind of fun watching them go into wanting to play some sports."

To learn more about the upcoming National Championship games, visit the Sports Commission website at