Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 22, 2011

SALISBURY — Lou Manning knows all the angles.
Ball in hand, he walked around the Bankshot Basketball court and demonstrated the best spots on the backboards to hit, so the ball would carom nicely through the metal hoop.
Sometimes a station might require the ball to go through two baskets. Or at the 19th station, set up to break ties, the player must throw the ball off two high backboards, directing it toward a lower hoop.
Manning impressed his audience by making that bank-bank shot two times in a row.
“That’s all there is to it,” Manning said, grinning.
The Salisbury/Rowan Senior Games & Silver Arts will be adding Bankshot Basketball to the events senior athletes can compete in next spring.
“Not only is it a physical challenge, but it’s a mental challenge,” said Phyllis Loflin-Kluttz, the Games coordinator for Rowan County Parks and Recreation, “and we seniors like that.”
Salisbury’s Bankshot Basketball court is the biggest and best in the state, and still might qualify — after 11 years — as the city’s best-kept recreational secret.
This Bankshot venue in Cannon Park off Park Avenue also is big enough to hold a nationally sanctioned Southeast regional tournament — the next goal for Salisbury Parks and Recreation officials.
For now, they will have to take pride in knowing that Salisbury/Rowan Senior Games are the only seniors competition offering Bankshot competition in North Carolina.
“No one in the state has ever done this,” Loflin-Kluttz said.
The next Salisbury/ Rowan Senior Games will take place over a two-month period in 2012, from March 9 through May 10.
Salisbury/Rowan Senior Games & Silver Arts is the second largest local games program in the state. This year, it was behind only the Unifour Senior Games, which take in participants from an area including Hickory, Lenoir, Morganton and Taylorsville.
Manning, president of the Park Avenue Redevelopment Corp., will serve as on-site coordinator for Bankshot Basketball at the local Senior Games. His neighborhood group has been holding Bankshot tournaments at its September Fun Festival every year.
The sport is similar in a way to miniature golf. There are 18 stations, not holes, and players will receive a scorecard, pencil and basketball. But in Bankshot Basketball, the players aim to rack up points at each station, unlike miniature golf where the object is to score the lowest number possible.
A ball must hit off a bankboard and go through a hoop to count. It’s a colorful, almost pop-art kind of game: The bankboards (backboards) at Cannon Park create a garden of black, yellow, pink, white, green and blue outcroppings.
The skill behind Bankshot Basketball comes in judging how hard to shoot the ball — from the three different shooting circles — and where to hit the bankboard so that it ricochets into the appropriate hoop.
Making things harder are bankboards that are angled, curved and even folded over at the corners, providing only a small window for the ball to go into the hoop.
But there’s no need to jump high or run fast. There’s no aggression required. Dunk shots are not needed or permitted. Again, a shot has to bank in off a board to count. No direct “swishing” is allowed.
“Everybody can play, that’s the nice part,” Salisbury Park and Recreation Director Gail Elder White said. A youngster, senior or person in a wheelchair has the same chance of doing as well as, say, Michael Jordan.
It makes Bankshot Basketball a pretty inclusive activity.
“Very inclusive,” Elder White said.
The blue, yellow and red scoring circles have 1-, 2- and 3-point values, respectively, based on their distance from the goal. A perfect score in the tournament format would be 126 points for 18 stations, meaning at each spot, the player sank a basket from a blue, yellow and red circle (6 points total), and earned a bonus point for making all three shots.
Players will be given two attempts in each circle.
The Bankshot court has been in place since Cannon Park had its huge makeover in 2000. It has remained free of any radical vandalism. One concession made early on was the removal of nets from the rims, but nets will be in place for the Senior Games competition.
Manning said it takes about 35 minutes to play the 18 stations. In the light rain Wednesday morning, he gave an overview of the court and game to Loflin-Kluttz, Elder White and local Senior Games ambassadors Harry Morgan and C. William French.
Loflin-Kluttz hopes she can arrange for a workshop before the Senior Games next spring to introduce possible participants to the venue, the game and its rules.
The good news for competitors is that Manning, perhaps the most experienced Bankshot player in the county, will be overseeing the event and not playing.
And that’s all there is to it.
Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263, or