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Youth basketball could return to JFK Playground courts in New Kensington

| Sunday, March 24, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Youth basketball could return to the JFK Playground courts behind New Kensington's city hall this summer.

Alex Novickoff, a basketball coach and teacher at New Kensington-Arnold School District, recently told New Kensington Council he is working with the Valley Points Family YMCA to bring back a youth league.

Novickoff said he played and coached in the Gosby “Goose” Pryor summer league that filled the courts with children every summer for about 16 years.

Since the Pryor league has been inactive for a few years, Novickoff said the school district's basketball program would benefit from a community league that develops skills and interest in younger students.

To that aim, he and Jason Halfhill, the YMCA's director of healthy living, approached city officials about starting a new league and using the playground's basketball courts.

Plans are preliminary, but they hope to start this summer with fourth- and fifth-graders.

They would have girls teams and boys teams.

If the first season goes well, Novickoff said they could expand the age groups and number of students involved as long is there is interest.

“We want to keep it a community event,” he said.

Halfhill said the YMCA will be the league's sponsor, but he is looking for volunteers to help run the program.

He said it's too soon to have children sign up to participate.

“It's going to happen,” Halfhill said. “We have the framework in place. We just need to get the loose ends tied up.”

He and Novickoff hope to finish working out the details in the upcoming weeks and then will begin to advertise for participants.

Novickoff estimated the league might run for four to six weeks with games in the early evenings.

Novickoff said he'd like to find official referees so the children get accustomed to playing by the rules of a formal game.

New Kensington Council members were supportive, although they noted a few issues that came up during the latter years of the Pryor league would need to be addressed.

Those concerns included people wandering unsupervised through city hall, cleanup of the facilities and parking not interfering with police cars and visitors of the UPMC medical facility.

Councilman Doug Aftanas said he is pleased to see the partnership developing and including the city's parklet.

Councilman John Regoli noted it would good to have an organized group use the playground again. JFK Playground was the focus of an improvement effort in recent years that was spearheaded by city resident Will Varner.

“We're excited to be working on this with the city to get it up and going,” Halfhill said. “We think it will be really good for the kids in the community.”

Liz Hayes is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-4680 or lhayes@tribweb.com.

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