Derek Hersha remembers how basketball once was when he played at Salpointe in the early 1990’s, and he believes some elements of the game are missing from today’s generation.
“Everything is so structured now,” he said. “We were all always outside when I was young. We were always on the playground. I remember, even in high school, we would drive around to the parks and be like, ‘Oh, they’re playing over there.’ We’d pull over, get out of the car and we’d start playing.
“Now everything is in the gym. Everything is structured. Everything is cones and chairs and offense and defense. You tell a kid, let’s play 21 and they’re like, ‘How do you play that?’ You say 3-on-3 to a fifth grader and they’re like, ‘What’s 3-on-3?'”
Hersha, who went on to play at Pima College and Grand Canyon, wants to bring those 3-on-3 days back at a time when youth basketball is at a standstill because of COVID-19 protocol for many unless they play for a club team.
The lack of middle school-age players competing because of the cancellation of basketball by most of the school districts locally motivated Hersha to create the We Got Next 3-on-3 Basketball Youth and Adult League from March 6-27 at the Tucson Baptist Church gym (1525 S. Columbus Blvd.).
Adults are also invited to participate, especially college-age students who are unable to play in the canceled intramural leagues at the University of Arizona.
“The high school kids are playing but many of them do not have freshman or junior varsity teams this year so what are those kids doing as well?” said Hersha, whose son Myles is a standout senior at Salpointe.
Herhsa is akin to basketball club teams in Tucson running Team Prep Dynasty with Jimmy Nelson, father of Evan and Jaya Nelson, and other organizations in recent years. Team Prep Dynasty includes many of the top local high school players, including his son and Pueblo 6-foot-11 forward Zach Morgan.
The elder Hersha is now the executive director of the Apex Athletix organization that is operating the 3-on-3 youth and adult league.
“For some of the club teams it’s hard to put eight or nine kids together; it is a real challenge,” Derek Hersha said. “Either the parents don’t want their kids to play or a kid gets in contact with COVID-19. You’ve got to shut things down. So I was like, ‘Can we do 3-on-3? Can we make that work?’
“From a developmental standpoint, 3-on3 gives the young kids more touches. They get to dribble. They get to pass. They get to shoot. You have to play man-to-man defense. Just from a developmental standpoint, I don’t know why we got away from 3-on-3.”
Hersha reasons that a three-week 3-on-3 league and championship tournament is feasible with COVID-19 protocols because teams can have no more than five players and he wants only one parent per player to attend.
“We will reduce potential exposure of COVID-19,” Hersha said. “It’s not 10 on the court at the same time. The parent or fan who attends will have to wear a mask. We will temperature check. We will have hand sanitizer. I think you limit your risk with 3-on-3.”
Divisions will include first-second grade, third-fourth grade, fifth-sixth grade, seventh-eighth grade, high school and adults.
Games are played to 15 points with a 10-minute limit. Points scored inside the 3-point line are worth one point and points scored beyond the arc are two points.
Teams will play best two out of three games.
The fee per team is $200. For more information, contact Hersha at 520-260-9049 or visit the Apex Athletix web site.