Local youth wins free throw championship

Published 9:36 pm Tuesday, March 29, 2011

There are six NBA players shooting better than 90 percent at the foul line this season. Topping that rare mark puts a player in the same category as Stephen Curry, Chauncey Billups and Steve Nash.

Liam Faulkner, who plays in Ebenezer UMC’s Upward Basketball League along with a youth league in Portsmouth, won the 10-year-old state championship in the Knights of Columbus state free throwing shooting competition in Richmond. Faulkner made 32 of 35 shots throughout the competition.

Liam Faulkner, 10, needed to eclipse 90-percent shooting to win the state championship at the Virginia Knights of Columbus State Free Throw Competition at Benedictine High School in Richmond on March 19.

Faulkner, whose home courts include the Upward Basketball League at Ebenezer United Methodist Church in Eclipse, won local and regional contests in Hampton Roads to make it to the state final in Richmond.

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“I didn’t really think it was going to be such a big deal,” Liam said.

It turned out more than 300 kids, boys and girls ages 10-14, were on hand at Benedictine, plus all the accompanying parents and spectators.

Liam drained 23 of 25 at the stripe. Only one other shooter in any of the other age groups shot better. Unfortunately for Liam, another player in his group matched the 23 for 25, sending the contest into overtime.

With the other age groups done and everyone in the gym awaiting the award presentation, everyone watched the one-on-one tiebreaker.

Both kids made 4 of 5. In the second overtime, Liam knocked down all five and won by two shots, taking his total for the day to 32 of 35 shots.

“I was happy and I was surprised, too,” Liam said.

“That was better than average for him,” said David Faulkner, Liam’s dad and teacher/basketball coach at John Yeates Middle School. “He’d usually make about 20 (out of 25).”

Liam plays in Upward and played in a more competitive league in Portsmouth for the first time this winter. Liam goes to Churchland Elementary in Chesapeake and is the son of David and Livia Faulkner.

The league in Portsmouth was the first league Liam’s played in with a three-point shot.

“His coach gave him the green light to shoot the three,” David said. “As a coach, I was horrified. I was like, ‘Oh no,’ and holding my head.”

“In one game, I made three threes,” Liam said.

The two leagues plus one of the early rounds of the Knights of Columbus contest converged on the same Saturday a couple months ago. A day full of basketball is not unusual, said dad, but that schedule was a little much.

At John Yeates, David’s helped bring up Nansemond River standouts such as Nick Wright, now a forward for Old Dominion, Andre Jones, now one of the top scorers at Winthrop, and Ashton Moore, who made first-team all-region and all-state this season as a Warrior.

“We’re going to work a lot on ball handling over the summer. (Liam) can win a game of horse, but you’ve got to be able to handle the ball,” David said.