Sat, Aug 07 2010 12:26 AM Posted By: Phillip Brents
Like nearly everyone growing up in this country, I’ve tried my hand at shooting hoops on a makeshift backyard basketball court. But imagine someone making a bucket on 48 courts in 48 states in eight days.
That’s just what trio of local basketball junkies accomplished last April when undertaking what they affectionately dubbed “The 48 Stater.”
Jack Davis, John Baker and Richard Paff — all retirees — returned to Southern California after a nine-day, 7,000-mile excursion that took them to all 48 contiguous states in the United States, shooting a basket in each and every state along the way.
What can only be described as a hoop-aholics’ adventure of a lifetime set a world record for the fastest time to drive around the country and make a basket in each of the 48 contiguous states.
That was the first purpose of the marathon tour. The second purpose was to raise funds for athletic facilities and supplies for the New Dawning Christian School in San Juan La Laguna, Guatemala.
Both objectives, we’re happy to relate, were accomplished.
The trio’s journey began in Nipton, near the Mojave National Preserve, at 6:05 a.m. PST on Monday, April 13. From there, the three hoopsmen (and their wives) drove in a rental car to Umatilla, Ore. — the long way — finding courts in church parking lots, school gyms and city parks in such places as Rehoboth, N.M.; Columbus, N.C.; and Hankinson, N.D.
The trip was carefully planned months in advance, with contacts made for each respective stop.
Sometimes the men shot their hoops in solitude, using flashlights late at night to maintain their feverish pace. But more often than not, the trio found plenty of fanfare and support along the way.
In Lavonia, Ga., for instance, the chairwoman of a local foundation greeted them at 6:30 a.m. on behalf of the town.
During a late night stop at Pilgrim Pines Conference Center in Swanzey, N.H., a caravan of cars from a nearby church lined the camp’s outdoor court, with the drivers leaving their headlights on to illuminate the hoop.
There were other equally heart-warming stories along the way.
On the driveway basket of a friend in Cambridge, Minn., they shot alongside Ray Skotte, a 90-year-old substitute teacher who took the day off from work and drove 490 miles (one way) just to cheer them on. Skotte’s son Steve had played for Paff while on the ninth grade basketball team at Hilltop Junior High School. The younger Skotte was an important member of that team that went 34-0 and won the San Diego County Ninth Grade championship.
“Moments like that were what kept us going,” said Paff, who posted daily updates on the trip’s blog 48stater (http:// 48stater.wordpress.com). “It was unbelievable.”
The three men, who might have better spent their time sharing conversation over a meal at any popular family restaurant, elected to spend upward of 20 hours each day in a car, driving from state to state, pausing only minutes at a time to shoot a few baskets. They did this despite tired, aching bodies … refusing to otherwise act their age.
Paff, whose son Brian was a standout cross country runner at Bonita Vista High School in the late 1990s, called the whole experience “hoop-phoria.”
“I love basketball,” said the elder Paff, who conceived of the trip long before retiring from the classroom in 2004. “I love traveling, too. It was a great way to combine my passions.”
All the events were dutifully recorded, with witnesses at every site to verify each basket made via affidavits.
When Baker (a former highway engineer from East Wenatchee, Wash., and also Paff’s son-in-law) and Davis and Paff (both career educators from Hilltop Middle School) sank their respective shots at a park in Umatilla at 11:38 a.m. PST on Wednesday, April 21, their quest was completed. It took eight days, five hours, and 33 minutes after it began. Karen Talaski represented the Umatilla Chamber of Commerce and witnessed the final bucket, offering the town’s congratulations on setting a new world record that is now certified in the Record Holders Republic’s Registry of Official World Records.
Aside from sudden quasi-stardom and the many social connections they made along the way, why did these men do it?
Another set of passions — service and education — came into play, they said.
Paff and his wife Nancy have traveled to a school in rural Guatemala each summer for the past several years to provide curriculum support and contribute to work projects with a service group from Grace Covenant Church in Lemon Grove. So the threesome set out to raise funds to raise a roof over the outdoor basketball court at New Dawning Christian School in San Juan la Laguna, located on the shores of Guatemala’s Lake Atitlan.
So far, donors have contributed more than $26,000 to Children of Lake Atitlan, the U.S.-based nonprofit that supports the school financially, as a result of their fundraising efforts. The Paffs are happy to report that ground breaking has already begun.
Donations are still being accepted for the project. Checks should be made payable to Children of Lake Atitlan, 9140 Akard St., Spring Valley, CA 91977.
Following the conclusion of their odyssey, the globe-trotting hoopsters agreed on one thing they would do next: sleep.
I’m sure their dreams must have been most pleasant, if not satisfying to match the roof being raised for needy children in Central America.
© 2009 The Star-News