WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. – The PRC Youth Basketball Tournament sponsored by the Westchester County Parks Department began 82 years ago for boys and 28 years ago for girls.
Kevin Cook, the recreation supervisor for Westchester County Parks, is in his sixth year as the organizer of the three-week-long tournament. As such, he has seen the joy for each of the participants at the Westchester County Center.
“The coaches and the kids, they love coming here because it’s seen as the ultimate place for high school basketball,” Cook said. “For them to feel like they’re playing at the County Center is a true thrill.”
The tournament is strictly for Westchester County, and about 105 recreation and travel teams participated in this year’s event. With about 12 youths per roster, the tournament showcases more than 1,000 basketball players in grades five through 10 for boys and five through eight for girls.
Cook’s responsibilities as organizer begin in early January with committee meetings and end in late February. Cook must recruit the teams, create the brackets, schedule the games (which he does within 48 hours), assign passes for coaches and officials, and work with the referee associations to have the men in striped shirts officiate the games.
The tournament also functions as training for referees. They must take classes to prepare, and the games then function as their first floor test and to help them gain experience.
The event takes place during 10 days spread out across three weeks. Games occur from Monday to Thursday in the first week and Monday to Wednesday in the second and third weeks. The finals of the single-elimination tournament take place in the third week.
Teams “from Rye to Peekskill,” as Cook puts it, descend upon the County Center to play. So the floor transforms from its usual collegiate dimensions into three courts separated by mesh nets. For the finals, the teams play on the usual 94-foot court.
Cook said the frenzied nature of the event has earned it the nickname “The Rat Race.”