Memory of Carl Junction Youth
Remains Strong with 4th Annual Hoops Tournament
By Don Lowe
Photo by Savanah Mandeville
In just a few weeks, the fourth annual Jensen L. Smith Basketball Tournament will tip off with an all-day slate of games set to take place Saturday, June 1, at multiple venues on the Carl Junction School district campus.
The vision for this event came together fast, as a couple of Jensen’s former classmates spearheaded it just a few weeks after their friend’s death from injuries he sustained in a car wreck 3-1/2 years ago.
Rick Smith, Jensen’s dad, noted this tournament originated as “Haden Walker’s idea, and Candace Tracy helped him carry it out. Haden went into the service, so Candace took it over the second year (2017) and did a fabulous job. After that, our family (Rick, his wife Stacey and Jensen’s mom, and daughter Kalli, Jensen’s sister) has taken it over.
“It was all organized and planned initially by those two (Haden and Candace),” Rick Smith recalled. “It all happened so very quickly. Jensen passed away March 29, 2016, and the inaugural tournament was in late May.”
A Facebook page for this event (https://www.facebook.com/Jensen-Smith-Basketball-Tournament) explains that monies for the tournament will go to help fulfill Jensen’s dream by supporting blackboxinternational.org, an international faith-based mission, which is a non-profit organization that exists to help provide a holistic approach to after-care for boys 16 and under who have been rescued from sex-trafficking.
“In the first three years, the tournament and individual donations have totaled approximately $40,000,” Stacey Smith related. “Blackbox is in the process of opening a home in Haiti, aka the Jensen Smith Project, with this money and other donations.”
Rick Smith and all the family are thankful to those who’ve provided financial funding. “Some of the top contributors last year were Peterbilt of Joplin, Randy Roper, Reynolds Warehouse, Shelter Insurance – Steve Thomas, and Pat and Deb Irwin, MCA Construction, Rental & Sales, Inc., IBEW Local 95, Good Dog Salon, Genuine Realty, Inc., CED Electrical Supply, Asbell Excavating, Joplin Industrial Electric, Chris and Stephanie Patterson, Dr. McAllister and Dr. Menke. We had several other smaller donations, and all are greatly appreciated.”
While monetary support is vital, Rick Smith said those who give of their time to this worthy cause deserve a great deal of kudos. “This tournament wouldn’t be possible without the many volunteers that come and help out. We have a great support system of family and friends.”
As far as how the tournament is structured, Rick Smith explained, “We’ve been making changes every year to improve it. This year it is 16 teams, with three games guaranteed in pool play and then single-elimination games after that.
“It’s a one-day tournament this year for ages 16 and up, with boys, girls and co-ed teams. There will be a 30-minute running clock in each game, with the clock stopping with two minutes remaining. We are hoping to have referees for most of the games, if not all of them, depending on donations.
“We have very competitive teams coming, along with teams that just want to be there for fun and to remember Jensen. We will be using three gyms in the Carl Junction school district. Assistant Principal/Athletic Director Jesse Wall graciously allows us to use the gyms.”
As he contemplates what has helped this tournament fare so well, Rick Smith speculated, “All the players that come in from the Four-State Area in remembrance of Jensen and share his love of the game is what makes it a success, along with the donations and volunteers. Overall, it takes our whole community to make it successful.”
Rick Smith said his son’s response to this tournament is he’d be “so excited for all the players coming together and playing the game he loved.”
4th Annual Jensen L. Smith
Basketball Tournament Fast Facts
What: Basketball tournament named after Jensen L. Smith, who was a 19-year-old freshman at Ozark Christian College, studying theology, when he died as a result of injuries in a car accident in early 2016.
When: One-day tournament Saturday, June 1.
Where: Carl Junction school district gyms.
Why: Raise money for Blackbox International. Blackbox is a recognized 501 (c) not-for-profit organization.
How: Teams can sign up though Rick Smith’s Facebook page or the Jensen Smith Basketball Tournament page. Donations can be made on both of these sites, and tournament T-shirts are available for purchase, as well. Checks for team sign-ups should be made to Rick Smith and mailed to Cheryl Wentworth at 119 Briar Meadow, Carl Junction, MO 64834. Entry fee is $175 for each team.
Quotable: Jensen’s parents, Rick and Stacey,
and his sister, Kalli, are passionate about this event.
Rick said his wife and daughter are “very active in the tournament as volunteers. Kalli and Jensen were very close, and it turned her world upside down as a
result of the accident.”