Other NJ News

Somerville Basketball Tournament Organizer Pleased with Event, Despite Fewer Teams, Smaller Crowd

Credits: Rod Hirsch
Credits: Rod Hirsch
Credits: Rod Hirsch
Credits: Rod Hirsch
Credits: Rod Hirsch
Credits: Rod Hirsch
Wallace Gantt, right, speaks with Somerville Mayor Brian Gallagher and Franklin Township Councilwoman Shanel Robinson.
Credits: Rod Hirsch
Credits: Rod Hirsch
Credits: Rod Hirsch
Credits: Rod Hirsch
Credits: Rod Hirsch
Credits: Rod Hirsch
Somerville Mayor Brian Gallagher admires the customized artwork on the purple and gold suede sneakers created by local artist and entrepreneur Jerome Stukes. Credits: Rod Hirsch


SOMERVILLE, NJ – Wallace Gantt, the self-proclaimed “Mayor of South Somerville” declared Saturday’s rain-delayed basketball tournament a success, even though the crowd was smaller this year than last.

This year, there was more focus on the heart and soul of the event – distributing book bags and school supplies to children whose families are hard-pressed to meet household expenses, according to Gantt.

The tournament had originally been scheduled for July 29, but was postponed because of forecasted inclement weather that never materialized.

Sign Up for E-News

The rescheduling wreaked havoc with the number of teams that had originally signed up for the tournament.

No matter. Those who stopped by Michael Lepp Park to play, to watch, to socialize enjoyed the day, especially the dozens of kids who walked away with bags full of school supplies and other miscellaneous items.

Gantt is all about helping kids and having a good time, keeping it loose and keeping it simple.

A 1980 graduate of Somerville High School, he was an all-state football player in his high school days, a hard-hitting cornerback, but for the past several years, his focus has been on a different sport.

The basketball tournament reflects his personality, his attitude and philosophy.

The tournament, now in its 11th year, doesn’t have a name or big-time sponsor. There are no trophies for the winners. That’s not what is important, according to Gantt. 

Simple. Home grown. No entitlements. No complications.

 “We’ve tried to keep it that way,” Gantt said. “We didn’t want any ‘Big Box’ store donations, we want the people who live in Somerville to support the tournament, the residents who live in town to donate stuff, whatever they can.”

In the days and weeks leading up to the tournament, Gantt drives around town, stopping off at homes and businesses to pick up donations, an oddball assortment of school supplies, backpacks, Frisbees, hats, notepads, pens, flashlights, first aid kits – whatever it is that people have to give.

As they have done in past years, the Somerville Police Department drove up and unloaded a trunk full of school supplies; Local restaurateur Rick St. Pierre dropped off several boxes of food and local entrepreneur and artist Jerome Stukes donated a pair of Lakers’ purple-and-gold suede sneakers with custom art work.

Mayor Brian Gallagher fielded a team in the tournament, but was unable to play because of a pinched nerve. He met Shanel Robinson, a member of the Franklin Township Council, who is running for Somerset County Freeholder as a Democrat. Gallagher, the longtime mayor of Somerville, is her Republican opponent. They had a cordial conversation with Gantt.

Gantt is a member of the Aldridge B. Cooper Sr. Mason Lodge #69 and that’s where the idea for the tournament started.

Club #69 of the A.B. Cooper, Sr. Lodge #69, P.H.A. and it sister organization, Keturah, O.E.S. Eastern Star Club #63 take care of the permits and insurance for the tournament and provide the food and drink.

“We formed a Boys’ Club at the lodge, a lot of kids didn’t have both parents in their house and the whole thing is there wasn’t much for the kids to do so we started the club,” Gantt explained. “We used to have parties on Friday nights for the kids; they had to bring their report cards if they wanted to get in for free, we were just trying to make them accountable for something, you know,” he added.

“This is my baby but it’s not my tournament. It belongs to the community,” said Gantt, who has three sons, one of them a New Jersey State Trooper.

There is no game plan. Jump ball to get things started and after that, it’s anybody’s guess.

This is street ball, lots of trash talk; rules are enforced arbitrarily, but hey, it’s not all about the game, it’s about having fun, Gantt emphasizes.

Keeping score is not a priority.

“Nah, there’s no trophies, if you win, you just win, you know what I’m sayin’ just bragging rights, that way you keep the tournament simple, you ain’t getting no trophy and you ain’t getting no banner if you win, congratulations, we’ll see you next year, and you know, it works out good that way,” Gantt said.

 “We have a lot of little kids hanging around there, they really can’t play so we’ll call a time out, let the kids come out on the on court and shoot, maybe have a contest, give them something, it makes them feel good, kind of special,” Gantt said.

 “We just hope that some of this goodness rubs off on one or two of the kids,” Gantt said. “That’s what it’s all about, the kids.”

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News


East Brunswick: Spring Big Day Tour for Birdwatching

March 19, 2018

EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ - Be alert and get your cameras ready for a rite of spring.

East Brunswick Birding invites residents to join them for their Spring Big Day Tour of the township's birding hotspots (including Dallenbach's, Heavenly Farms, Edgeboro Landfill, Bicentennial, Jamesburg and Ireland Brook Parks) on Saturday May 5.  The adventure begins at Dallenbach Park at ...

Make Room at the Table: Downtown Somerville Restaurant Week March 19-24

March 19, 2018


SOMERVILLE, NJ - The organizers of Downtown Somerville Restaurant Week concede it’s  an idea that is long overdue, so they’re rolling out the welcome mat, setting their tables, and offering a Prix Fixe menu certain to appeal to customers old and new.

Beginning Monday, March 19 and running through Saturday, March 24, the event is a showcase for more than one dozen of ...

Upcoming Events

Wed, March 21, 8:00 PM

Kidztopia, Matawan

Business Women Networking Event

Sat, March 24

Black Diamond Billiard's, Union

Ladies 9-Ball Pro-Am by the Garden State Pool Tour

Sat, March 24

Black Diamond Billiard's, Union

Ladies 9-Ball Pro-Am by the Garden State Pool Tour

Registration is Now Open for Horse Care Workshop Beginning 3/31

March 19, 2018

BASKING RIDGE, N.J. — Somerset County Park Commission Lord Stirling Stable is offering Horse Care Workshop 101 for adults and youth seeking to gain experience and confidence around horses through a combination of non-riding activities and hands-on practice.

Horse Care Workshop 101 will be held at Lord Stirling Stable, 256 South Maple Avenue in Basking Ridge, NJ beginning Saturday March ...

Bonnies, Gators Rematch During 2018 March Madness Round of 64 in Dallas

March 16, 2018

DALLAS – They say everything is bigger in Texas. In terms of what tonight’s game means for the St. Bonaventure Bonnies, this saying couldn’t be any truer.

Coming off Tuesday night’s 65-58 victory over UCLA, the Bonnies earned their first NCAA tournament win since 1970 and punched their ticket to Dallas.

With a loser-goes-home situation eminent, the Bonnies look to ...

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote (Random House, 1965)


In Cold Blood is, quite simply, the grand-daddy of true crime writing, dubbed by Capote, himself, as the first non-fiction novel (although Norman Mailer argued the point when he published The Executioner's Song in 1979.) The conditions under which I read In Cold Blood for the first time were pretty weird, which was another ...

Ian Hockley Visits New Jersey to Introduce Program to Empower Youth

This week I am taking a departure from book reviewing to share an important program that has been introduced to New Jersey this week by Mr. Ian Hockley, founder of the Dylan's Wings of Change Foundation. On December 14, 2012, Hockley's five year old son, an autistic child named Dylan, was gunned down in his classroom in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. Dylan, a shy and adorable ...