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BASKETBALL'S NEW LOOK IN GARRETTSVILLE

Needing to re-sand their court anyway, the G-Men chose a bold new look sure to draw plenty of

By JONAH ROSENBLUM Staff Writer Published: July 12, 2017 4:00 AM
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The G-Men have played thrilling basketball and volleyball the past several seasons.

Now, Garfield has the court to match.

"I couldn't be happier with the way it came out," G-Men athletic director Jim Pfleger said of Garfield's new charcoal-stained court. "It's something unique to us, our community and our schools. It fits with what we are."

Starting this season, the G-Men boys basketball team, coming off a district title and two straight district championship game appearances; girls basketball team, coming off two district titles in three years; and volleyball team, which also won a district championship in 2016-2017, will play on a court as eye-popping as their recent results.

"We have the talent on the basketball and volleyball teams, so let's make them somewhere nice to play," JAG All Sports Boosters president Kim Burrows said.

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Girls basketball coach Aaron Gilbert added, "Our academics have been awesome for so long and now we have sports facilities that are on par with what we've been able to do academically for so many years."

The old court needed fixing, anyway. According to Gilbert, on at least two occasions this past season, referees warned that the court needed to be swept or else the G-Men would have to forfeit the game.

"The floor was awful, honestly," Gilbert said. "The floor was in terrible shape. It was, at times, as slippery as an ice rink."

Facing a costly re-sanding of roughly $20,000 regardless, the G-Men decided to spend a little extra money -- raised by Garfield's booster club and a lucrative on-court sponsorship from Charles Auto Family -- to create a court rarely seen in high school basketball.

"The difference was minute," Pfleger said, estimating the new total at approximately $24,700, paid for by the booster club and the auto dealer's sponsorship.

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Burrows said that when she and treasurer Bruce Jones took over JAG All Sports Boosters a few years ago, the group had just $68 in its bank account. Burrows and Jones revolutionized the organization, including going from $167.99 in concession profits in 2013-2014 to $32,669.17 in 2016-2017.

"We pinched the pennies," Burrows said. "All Bruce Jones and I did, this will sound crazy, is no money went anywhere except straight to the bank when we were done with the concession stand and no one got free food except when the game was over."

A spectacular concession stand helped lead to a spectacular new court.

The old one was unremarkable -- mostly unpainted wood with the keys, sidelines and baselines in black and "G-Men" in yellow across the center of the court. It was traditional, similar in design to the vast majority of high school basketball courts.

Nobody can say that about the new court.

"It looks awesome," Burrows said. "As a booster, we wanted something those kids would be proud of."

While the new court's baselines, keys and sidelines remain black, and the area around the paint, within the 3-point line, remains unpainted, the rest of the court is entirely different. From 3-point line to 3-point line, the court is a sleek shade of charcoal gray, with interlocking G's at the center of the court and "G-Men" and "Charles Auto Family" logos facing the stands on both sides. The familiar black sidelines are now highlighted by the words "JAG All Sports Boosters" in the original wooden color, while the black baselines feature "Garfield" in the original beige.

"I liked it because no one else has it," G-Men boys basketball coach Andrew Olesky said. "We're going to be trend-setters."

While the G-Men's design is extraordinarily rare among local high schools, the inspiration for their new home court stemmed from a number of schools. Pfleger recalled reading about Olympia High School's new charcoal-stained court in the West Orange Times & Observer last year while vacationing in Florida. Gilbert cited Oakland University's distinctive "blacktop" court, as well as the largely gray court used by Toledo St. Francis de Sales.

"I was like, 'Man, we got to do this,'" Pfleger said. "That's the route we've got to go. That would be something nobody's ever seen before."

It looked good in theory --and looks better in-person, according to Gilbert, who said pictures don't do it justice.

"You walk in and you're like 'wow,'" Gilbert said. "When you get out to it in-person, you're like, 'Oh yeah, this looks nice.'"

Gilbert said he hopes the distinctive design leads to a bigger home-court advantage for the G-Men, yet the court already has had at least one positive result. Olesky said that as he has seen his athletes throughout the summer, including at graduation parties, the subject of Garfield's new court has consistently come up --along with the eager question, "When can we get in there and start shooting?"

"Their faces light up with a smile," Olesky said. "The smile on their face and the excitement in their eyes is pretty cool."

Still, if the court design is brand-new, Gilbert is hoping at one thing stays the same -- the winning.

"Now, the pressure is on to put a product on the floor for everyone to see," Gilbert said.


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