John Anderson spun the basketball in his hands, bounced it once, looked up at the rim and drained a 15-foot jump shot, evoking a cheer from the friends and family who gathered last week for the opening of his brother Josh’s memorial.
It was arguably the first official bucket at the Josh Anderson Memorial basketball court, built by the El Dorado Hills Community Services District and opened last week, eight years after the 19-year old lost his life on El Dorado Hills Boulevard in January 2005.
The basketball court is located in the Community Park, north of the pool, near the teen center. An adjacent picnic and play area is planned but not yet budgeted.
John Anderson buried another jump shot, this time from about 20 feet.
“It’s an athletic family,” shrugged Joe Anderson, who looked on from a wheelchair.
Joe envisioned the basketball court in 2006, shortly after the traffic accident that took his son Josh’s life.
“We wanted to do something to remember him, something that he would have liked,” said Joe. “It’s been a long time coming.”
He conceived the idea and passed the ball to Josh’s first basketball coach, local contractor Jerry Dover, who assembled a team of local building professionals, all doing well at the time.
Dover drew up the play. The memorial court would be built with volunteer labor and materials. The CSD would provide the land, permits and oversight.
But the housing bubble burst and Dover’s team disbanded before they got past the half-court line.
A fiscally frugal EDHCSD Board of Directors waited for a replacement team to come forward.
What they got was a cheerleader. CSD Board President Bill Vandegrift’s friend Robin Lyn knew the family and learned that Joe was undergoing treatment for brain cancer.
“The Andersons raised four kids in this community spanning two decades at Oak Ridge,” she said. “They’re great people … there’s nothing pretentious about them.”
She started attending CSD board meetings in 2011 and encouraged the board to complete the project while Joe was around to see it.
Vandegrift got behind the project, arguing that the CSD should foot the bill because the district lacked outdoor basketball courts. The other board members agreed.
“Everything just fell into place,” said Lyn in a recent text message. “The board was very supportive.”
Family and friends gathered last week to open the court. CSD general Manager Brent Dennis concluded a brief ceremony by suggesting that everyone honor Josh by making a basket.
For some it was easier said — or written about — than done. But the rim must have looked the size of a hula hoop to John Anderson, who followed his two-for-two christening of his brother’s memorial by launching a half–court bomb with similar results.
Kelley Anderson chose an easier shot, then surveyed the court. “Josh and his friends loved the game,” she said. “They played all the time.”
But much of that was in the street, she said.
“We wanted a legacy … the kind of place where he and his friends would get together and tear it up,” she said.
At the opposite end of the court, Dennis encouraged a reluctant Terry Crumpley to take a shot, in spite of the rookie CSD director’s avowed lack of basketball aptitude. Her initial efforts confirmed the assertion, but with coaching from Dennis she eventually got her basket.
Afterward, Joe Anderson was tired but talkative. “He never gave up,” he said, gesturing to Vandegrift, who caught Joe’s eye.
Vandegrift bent to embrace his friend. “It took a while but we finally got it, didn’t we,” he said.
Josh Anderson was a product of CSD soccer and basketball programs. “And he was a big Kings fan,” said brother Jeff, a broadcasting production manager for the team.
He thanked Vandegrift and Lyn for not letting the project languish, and talked about the court as closure to a tragic chapter in his family’s history.
“This means a lot to us,” he said, words laden with emotion, gaze drifting to the west, where the late afternoon sun had dropped below the ridge, leaving pink streaks in the sky.
“This is a good spot,” he said. “A really good spot.”
Josh’s mother Kelley Anderson said the family lived in Stonegate Village, a stone’s throw from the Community Park. “Josh spent his whole life in El Dorado Hills, much of it in this park,” she said.
“He sat on a mound up there and watched them grade this field,” said Joe, who chatted with friends after the shoot-around. Several asked how he’s doing.
“I’m hanging in there,” he said through a mischievous grin. “I may not be walking, but I can still make trouble.”
He credited the efforts of former General Manager Wayne Lowery and Dover, who eventually won the bid to build the court.
The final cost was $114,000, according to Stantec Landscape Architect Paul Marcillac, who designed the court and was on hand for its launch.
It’s one of several Community Park enhancements this spring, he said. A bridge over New York Creek and a four-stall rest room, both at the north end of the park, are slated for completion this month.
A picnic area with turf and play structures is planned for the flat spot east of the new court. The local Little League has committed to upgrade a pair of multi-use batting cages to the west.
The court, bridge and potties are all in keeping with “our promise to finish what we start,” said veteran CSD Director Tony Rogozinski.
The court is now open to the public. As soon as the weather warms, the asphalt court will get a tan and green coat of a special sports court sealer, along with standard basketball striping.
In a followup e-mail, Vandegrift wrote, “This should make us feel very good … It’s why we serve in this great community.”