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Local alumni to light up Matchbox

David Adlerstein
The Apalachicola Times

The Matchbox is going to be rocking Saturday night,

It’s a chance to see all the greatest basketball alumni from the Apalachicola Sharks and the Franklin County Seahawks, all playing in a three-team tourney to see who’s the GOAT.

At 5 p.m. it’s the Gold team versus the Black team

The rejuvenated Matchbox hosts regular learning sessions
Lots of enthusiasm with the new Equal Shot program.

On the Black team will be CM3, Alex, Dre Big 3, Bub, Jamie, Tyler H., AJ, Marcus, Carza, Kris, Isaiah, and Basket.

(You’ll be able to figure out who’s playing when you get there)

On the Gold team, it’s Spoat, Deshaun, Nahshon, Jerome, ‘Boo’ Gotti, Sugga, Mercury. Mike, and Smoke.

(Same thing, you’ll know them when you show up).

Then, it’s the Gold vs Blue. Blue includes Daijon, Tyler P., Ayden P., Timmy P., Grady E., Caleb KM Bro, Freddie W., Josue, Nathan, KK, Pig and County Commissioner Ricky Jones.

The third and last game is Gold vs Black.

“We want the whole community to come out,” said Tydron Wynn, who has organized the tourney, which is designed to boost the profile of EqualShot, a youth sports and character development program run by JT Escobar, a former college basketball standout.

“We want the whole community to come out, it’s basically for the kids,” said Wynn.

There’s going to be plenty of food and goodies for the young people to enjoy, in addition to basketball of the likes that hasn’t rocked the Matchbox since the legendary Joe Hayes took his team to Lakeland.

Begnning at 11 a.m. and lasting until 3 p.m., there will be a fish and shrimp fry, with dinners a mere $8, with proceeds going to the basketball program.

After that it’s time for a three-point shootout at 4 p.m.

“Any alumni can take part, any alumni that graduated from any schools in Franklin County,” said Wynn.

Franklin County’s new head basketball coach Ray Bailey will be on hand to talk up the program.

To attend the games, ticket price is a mere $3 for kids and $5 for adults.

Escobar said Equal Shot is excited to have started its first league, with just under 50 kids participating.

“What we’re looking to do, we are looking to do an after school center and offer leagues give them a space, where they can come in and for the first hour get homework done with tutors, and after that we’ve got basketball or partnering with dance classes,” he said.

Equal Shot is also offering help with different skill sets, to help young people, regardless of their basketball prowess an insight into conflict resolution, leadership development, nonviolent communication and more.

“To teach them how to handle emotions,” he said. “They an grow and learn and figure out who am I and what do I want to do with my life?

“To me basketball is kind of the hook, with camps and leagues, that’s how you build a base, and then you start to add pieces,” Escobar said.

He said he has sat down with Superintendent Traci Yoder and Apalachicola City Administrator Travis Wade, and gone over the program, as it seeks private donations. “We talked about what we’re looking to do and went over what do you see as the big issues in Franklin County, and what connections can we build, what support can we build?” he said. “We want to be able to offer high-level training. How can we come alongside you and what creative ways can we partner?”

To keep the program free, Escobar is hoping for community support with donations, as well as enthusiasm at events such as this Saturday.

“We have a heart for these kids,” he said. “My area of expertise is basketball even though I want them to learn other things. I’m not an expert in that so I asking ‘How do we make connections with people?’”

The new league has a wide range of ages and talents, including about 15 or 20 girls, many just starting out, on the co-ed teams.

“We want to make sure the kids have fun, and make sure they build community,” he said. “So everyone who walks through our doors realizes they have more value than they do when they walked in. That is going to determine if we won or lost.”

Tuesday workouts are optional, with practice on Thursday afternoons and games on Sundays.