Most high school and college basketball players are content to shoot around 80% from the free-throw line.
But in a regional free-throw shooting competition in Charlottesville, Virginia, Benfield Elementary fifth-grader Davis Balderston shot 92% to capture the crown and advance to the Elks Hoop Shoot National Finals tournament in Chicago.
“It’s pretty amazing,” said the school’s physical education teacher, Emily Clark. “It’s a great accomplishment, and he’s stayed very humble about his achievements.”
The national competition is sponsored by the Elks and begins at elementary schools across the nation. Each school selects two boys and two girls in three age groups: 8-9, 10-11 and 12-13. Davis will compete in the 10-11 age category.
Davis qualified at his school and then won a pair of competitions in Maryland at Towson and Fort Washington. He added another one in Charlottesville.
A Green Hornets select basketball player, he displayed his keen shooting stroke in those events. In the state tournament, he made 20 of 25 free throws and sank 23 of 25 free throws in the regional competition in Charlottesville. The participants use the standard free-throw line of 15 feet from the basket.
“The tournament has the competition in two rounds,” Davis said. “The first round, you have 10 free throws and then in the second round, you have 15 shots.”
The competition was fierce in Charlottesville and Davis made eight of 10 free throws in the first round. Davis shot a perfect second round by hitting all 15 free throws, enough to punch his ticket to Chicago for the nationals.
The national tournament will take place April 20-23 at Chicago’s Wintrust Arena, where the DePaul Blue Demons host college basketball games, and the Chicago Sky of the WNBA play their home games.
“It’s pretty cool that the Elks are flying my parents and I to Chicago and the hotel,” Davis said.
It’s a partnership that makes the Elks proud.
“Amy Hicks from the Severna Park Elks has been a pleasure to work with, and they supplied numerous volunteers and trophies to the contest,” Clarke said. “This is the sixth year the Severna Park Elks have been helping our contest.”
That weekend will have numerous activities for the participants, including a Friday Night FunFest, an opportunity to be involved with a service activity for veterans, and every player gets a personalized trading card.
To stay ready for the contest, Davis shoots about 50 free throws, four days a week, at home. In addition to basketball, he plays baseball, tennis and golf.
Davis looks forward to the national contest but will miss school and his classmates on those days in Chicago.
“I know when I get back, I’ll have a lot of homework waiting for me,” Davis said.
Davis knows he’ll come back to Severna Park with valuable memories, and he aims to also have good news for his school and classmates.
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