Catalino Borrios drives to the hoop during a game Saturday at a Hispanic basketball tournament that was going to draw more than 300 people to Rotary Centennial Park in Austin. -- Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com
Catalino Borrios drives to the hoop during a game Saturday at a Hispanic basketball tournament that was going to draw more than 300 people to Rotary Centennial Park in Austin. -- Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

A community game: Annual Latino basketball tourneys tip off

Published 11:44am Monday, May 20, 2013

On any given weekend, you can drive to Rotary Centennial Park in Austin and take in a basketball game during an afternoon. Or, you could take in an entire basketball tournament, one of several organized in Austin each summer by Asuncion Sandoval.

Alfredo Zarate, standing on the shoulders of Asuncion Sandoval, puts a new net up before the start of the tournament.
Alfredo Zarate, standing on the shoulders of Asuncion Sandoval, puts a new net up before the start of the tournament.

Sandoval is the man in charge of a local Hispanic basketball group, which organizes tournaments for local and former residents each year.

“They’re very happy that there’s something to do here,” Sandoval said of the group.

Locals have played tournaments in Austin each summer for the past six or seven years, though they used to play ball in the southwest part of town. Sandoval said the group, which used to have 15 to 20 teams, eventually grew too big and was thrown out of the park it used to play at because of the amount of people who would park there. With Rotary Centennial Park, he said, ball players and their families had plenty of space to play.

The tournaments are open to the public, however, and Sandoval said each team’s dues are sent to Oaxaca, Mexico, at the end of each summer to help school children.

A pair of teams tip off the tournament.
A pair of teams tip off the tournament.

This year’s tournaments started Saturday, with a 10-team scrimmage throughout the day. Mayor Tom Stiehm cut a ceremonial ribbon to officially open the season Saturday afternoon. Stiehm said it felt good to be a part of the opening ceremony and to reach out to the Hispanic community.

“The picture’s going to be changing soon with our Hispanic population,” he said. “A lot of [undocumented] residents are going to be able to have legal status and when that happens, we have to have more dialogue.”

Both Stiehm and Sandoval acknowledged how difficult it has been for local Hispanics to organize tournaments. Aside from getting thrown off the courts in the southwest part of town, Sandoval told Stiehm many of the players relocated to Arcadia, Wis., two years ago after Quality Pork Processors, Inc., went through a large staff overhaul. Many of those families with undocumented family members are afraid to drive back to Austin for fear they’ll be stopped by police, who could then potentially arrest and turn them over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials.

Yet Sandoval said the group is still strong, and he expects more teams than the 10 who showed up Saturday to join tournaments throughout the summer.

“It’s a good time,” he said.

Mayor Tom Stiehm was on hand to cut the ribbon for a big Hispanic basketball tourney.
Mayor Tom Stiehm was on hand to cut the ribbon for a big Hispanic basketball tourney.

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