When Bill Shellenbarger Jr. received word that might suspend its youth basketball program in 2009, he knew he had to save it.
Shellenbarger, who coaches varsity boys basketball at , said participation in the city's Grasshopper youth league was declining and that without interest, the league couldn't continue.
So Shellenbarger pulled together his resources, in the schools and in the community, to resurrect the city's youth basketball program and rename it Junior Trojan Basketball.
“We took a shot at it and turned it around," Shellenbarger said. In its first year, about 150 children in Grades 1 through 6 participated in Junior Trojan Basketball, nearly tripling the number of children who had been involved in the previous league.
"My access to gyms, gym times, my (high school) players, coaches ... I think that really benefited the numbers," Shellenbarger said. "It was a great success. People loved it."
This year, the league includes 200 students, 20 teams and 40 coaches, he said. The teams are separated by grade, skill level and gender. They typically practice once a week and play games against one another every Saturday at Clawson High School or Clawson Middle School.
Shellenbarger said one of the goals of the league is to teach students the fundamental skills of playing basketball that they can use in the long run.
"We really want the kids to have a fun experience," he said. "It's not about winning and losing. We try to promote great sportsmanship."
The coaches come from throughout the community: Some are parents, teachers, school board members, police officers and business owners.
Adam Korzeniewski of Clawson coaches his son's first- and second-grade team, the Super Sonics.
"I just wanted to help out, help the community," Korzeniewski said. "I think Coach Shellenbarger is doing an unbelievable job."
Aside from building skills, Shellenbarger said the Saturday games bring the parents and the community together.
"When you come into the gym on Saturday … everybody who is anybody in this town is up there," Shellenbarger said. "That's the place to be. Everyone's kids are playing."
Nancy Verner of Clawson has three children who play in the Junior Trojan Basketball league. She said the program encourages teamwork and helps build self-esteem for children.
"It builds friendships," Verner said. Players learn that "if you're not working together, you’re not going to achieve anything," she said.
Junior Trojan Basketball also has a lot of sponsors in the community that help with league expenses, such as uniforms for the players. Among the local business sponsors are Triple Thread, , Dairy O and
"We have great support from the community," Shellenbarger said.
The league's 12-week season will end Sunday with the final games beginning at 9 a.m. at Clawson High School. Shellenbarger said ClawTV will videotape the event, and there will be announcers, a bake sale and more. "It's a little bit of a party," he said.
Registration for Junior Trojan Basketball usually starts in early November. The league is open to players in first through sixth grades, and the registration fee is $70. For more information, contact Bill Shellenbarger Jr. at 248-320-6878 or e-mail email@example.com.