GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Dickinson Park's basketball court on Labor Day was lined with chairs, both of the metal folding and the camping variety. Dozens of people came out to watch a basketball tournament featuring 40 of West Michigan's best high school athletes. People who couldn't find a seat stood in awe at the talent on display.
When there weren't cheers erupting, the park was filled with the sounds of commentary from Dominic Shannon and Landon Mitchner.
"We in the park! We in the park!" Mitchner would cry as a player on the court called for a foul to be called.
"We just want to make sure that we have the community involved. That's why we brought it back to the blacktop, instead of taking it to an actual hardwood court. This is where it starts for most," said Mitchner, who serves as the assistant director of All-In Sports and event coordinator for the tournament.
"When you start off as a toddler or start off as a young man or young lady, you're typically starting off at the park. You may have some bumps and bruises and scabs to show for it, and we just wanted to bring it back to where everything starts for most basketball players."
Dickinson Park is where it started for Mitchner and Shannon. Both went to nearby Dickinson Elementary School and played on this very blacktop.
"This is a neighborhood that me and him grew up in, and it's very exciting to have the tournament right here in our backyard," said Shannon who is the founder and program director for All-In Sports.
The tournament served as an opportunity for the players and fans to enjoy Labor Day, and also as a space for young people to build community.
"We built the program to influence and encourage young men and young ladies, between the lines and outside the lines of sports. The most important part of our program would be the character development," said Shannon.
"There's a lot of accountability, and a lot of challenges that come with sports."
The four captains of the tournament hail from Grand Rapids Christian, Catholic Central, Ottawa Hills and Comstock Park. Each of them got to build their own dream teams, made up of West Michigan's finest players.
"We even have a couple kids from Muskegon here as well. They're putting on the show. So it's very fun to watch," said Shannon.
Kaden Brown from Grand Rapids Catholic Central won the MVP award for the day with 29 points in the championship game.
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