Gloucester County Times / June 12, 2000

Bankshot levels the field

Staff Writer

DEPTFORD TWP. -- It looks like basketball kind of. There are nets and hoops, but the backboards could never be mistaken for anything you would see in the NBA. Bankshot is basketball meets Picasso, crossed with miniature golf. Created by Rabbi Dr. Reeve Robert Brenner after his cousin was disabled in a car accident, the game is "total mix," or meant to be played by anyone, of any ability, no matter the age, disability or size.

According to David B. Armor, director of the Gloucester County Department of Human Services, Gloucester is the only county in the U.S. that will have two Bankshot courts, with locations in Mantua and Deptford townships. "The court in Mantua for two years has been so successful," Armor said of the impetus for getting a second court in the county. Armor said the county contacted Brenner and arrange to not only have the national Bankshot tournament in Mantua, but to get a $3,000 discount on the $27,500 system. The county then arranged to pass the discount on to Deptford because it knew the township was interested, Armor said.

Deptford Township Manager Joseph Picardi and Councilman Francis J. DiMarco both credited Councilwoman MaryBeth Monroe, who brought the system to the township council's attention. Picardi said the township received $25,000 in funding from J.C. Penny's to buy the system, and the council unanimously approved the purchase at its June 5 meeting. Part of the appeal of the game for the township is disabled people and seniors can play on the same level as a healthy teenager. The game consists of 18 stations, plus a tie-breaker station, with three circles to shoot from -- the closest to the eight-foot-high net is worth one point, the next back two points and the furthest back three, with the potential to earn bonus points -- with askew and inventive backboards to bank the ball through the hoop. Players cannot just shoot for the net, but have to figure out how to use the backboard to finesse the ball in. In that way the game is not just about the ability to put the ball up, but to think out the shot and learn how to navigate the course. "Bankshot is baffling, challenging, frustrating and really fun," said Deputy Freehold Director Robert M. Damminger, who was instrumental in bringing the national Bankshot tournament to Mantua and getting the system for Deptford. "It's fun to watch everybody play." "The point was made at conference that Americans with Disabilities Act focuses on access rather than modification," Armor said. Armor talked about the ADA mandating the addition of ramps and accessible bathrooms, but he said disabled people "really couldn't compete with others shooting or having a game." "Bankshot addresses that issue, not only of access, but the game can be played simultaneously" by people of all abilities, Armor said.

"They (disabled people) love it because it very unique and it's different from sports that are exclusionary for these people," said Damminger. "They can play on an equal par." Damminger added that he was "intrigued" by Bankshot and the fact that everyone was equal on the court and "everybody could participate." The Bankshot in Deptford will be on a tennis court in Fasola Park, located on Delsea Drive. The benefits of using the tennis court, DiMarco said, is the repaving costs would be in place even if it remained a tennis court, and the surface does not have to be done and fencing does not have to be erected. "In order to construct a first class facility with the proper court quality and the painting involved and fencing, the end cost can be as much as $50,000," Armor said. Because Deptford already has some of the facilities and received funding for the system, Picardi did not know how much the township would spend to install the system.

"The system is cost effective in number of people who could use it," Armor argued. Now that there will be two Bankshot systems in the county, a number of possibilities have opened up for the game within the county. In July and August, the regional and national Bankshot tournaments, respectively, will be held in Mantua. This is the third year the regional tournament will be held in Mantua, but the first time the national tournament will be there. Damminger said the county will push next year to get the tournament in Deptford. The Northeast Regional Bankshot Tournament will kick off July 15 and the national Tournament will follow on Aug. 11 and 12. To promote the event, at 5 p.m. on August 11, there will be a celebrity Bankshot game. The tournament will start the following morning at 9 a.m.

Armor said the event already has 16 of the 18 corporately sponsored teams and is still seeking individual and business donations that will go to the Edward J. Hudak Jr. Scholarship Fund for disabled students. The fund has already received donations from Brazil, New Zealand, Georgia and Tennessee, Armor said. "We're not so much looking for a large amount of money as we are awareness," Armor said. "We're looking for token donations from around world and country." Picardi expected the installation of Bankshot to be completed over the course of a week this summer.