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Banking on new playground: Central Blair Rec to install Bankshot basketball court

Employees from the Central Blair Recreation and Park Commission, Bankshot Sports of Rockville, Md., and a local construction firm met Wednesday at the city’s new playground on Sixth Avenue and 23rd Street to lay out the stations for a Bankshot basketball “playcourt” that will be constructed at the playground later this year. Mirror photo by William Kibler

In the late 1970s, an auto accident left Reeve Brenner’s cousin Janis with a disability, prompting Brenner to think what he could do, so they could resume playing basketball and other games they’d grown up with in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Brenner’s thoughts “percolated,” and in Israel a couple of years later, he invented Bankshot basketball, which uses standard balls, hoops and nets, along with uniquely shaped backboards, in a series of stations where players try to make tricky bankshots — an activity accessible to people of all abilities.

Janis died before Brenner invented the game, but the game itself has thrived, with 800 installations now — and one that will be coming this year to the city’s newest playground, on Sixth Avenue and 23rd Street.

Officials from Brenner’s National Association of Bankshot Operators, the Central Blair Recreation and Park Commission and BCS Construction were at the playground Wednesday morning to lay out station locations with the help of their fiberglass backboards, which arrived last week, according to commission Executive Director Mike Hofer.

The $163,000 project is two years behind schedule, because of COVID-related shutdowns and supply chain disruptions, he said.

Even now, BCS isn’t sure when it can begin the installation, he said.

When it does finish the approximately two-week project this spring or summer, it will be a palette of vibrant color, the better to catch the eyes of motorists on busy Sixth Avenue, Hofer said.

“It’s very visible,” Hofer said. “And easily accessible.”

Hofer first saw Bankshot basketball in a park and recreation magazine, he said.

Research convinced him that it would be a good fit for a local park project, as a feature to help ensure that when the commission undertakes a park design, it includes something fresh, he said.

The challenge of Bankshot is similar to the challenge of billiards, because of the “crazy” bounce angles players must master, according to Hofer and Brenner.

They need to “figure out the geometry,” Hofer said.

Based on the station sequence, the game starts out easy, but grows progressively “diabolical,” said Brenner, who is also a rabbi and author.

The first installation was at an Israeli home for wounded service members.

The first U.S. installation was in Florida, he said.

Brenner has dedicated the work of his Rockville, Md., enterprise to Janis.

They were childhood playmates, he said.

While the game is challenging, players’ focus ought to be “togetherness” — rather than competitiveness, Brenner said.

Aggressive competitiveness is the bane of society, according to Brenner.

“This (game) is a bit of an antidote,” especially for people who are disabled, aged or “marginalized,” he said.

Money from the city’s federal Community Development Block Grant allocation is funding the project.

Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 814-949-7038.

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