Saskatoon

Michael Linklater has hoop dreams of a new court for Saskatoon

A new group called Hoist the Hoops is now working to raise money to build a high end outdoor basketball court on Saskatoon's west side.

Local basketball hero wants young people to have a place to play

Michael Linklater honed his skills on an outdoor court on Saskatoon's west side. Now, he's behind a fundraising effort to build a new court, so that young people will have the same opportunity that he did. (Liam Richards/Canadian Press)

When Michael Linklater was a boy growing up on Saskatoon's gritty west side, he would sometimes sneak out late at night and take to the streets.

It wasn't about breaking curfew and looking for trouble. These unauthorized sojourns involved fast breaks, layups and jump shots from downtown.

He was sneaking out to play basketball in the schoolyard at St. Mary's.

In those days, St. Mary's had a brand new outdoor court and all the ballers showed up to play. Focusing on the game helped keep them out of trouble.

"You could just go down by yourself," he said. "There probably would be somebody with a ball shooting and you could get a game started."

It's where Linklater's hoop dreams were born.

Michael Linklater used to sneak out of his parent's home as a young boy to test his skills against other players on an outdoor court at his school. (Courtney Markewich/CBC)

Centre court

Linklater said there's no longer a place like that, where boys and girls go to test their skills against other players, in Saskatoon. That's why he is now working to bring a marquee outdoor basketball court to the west side, in the Riversdale/Pleasant Hill area.

We're going to be doing the building and fundraising ourselves.- Michael Linklater 

Linklater's vision is a court that can launch a thousand dreams, just like his.

"It's not just a regular basketball court that you see in the back of the schools with just asphalt hard top and regular backboards. We're looking at glass blackboards as well as a more soft finish."

Those late night pick-up games on the west side helped Linklater play college ball, claiming a national title with the University of Saskatchewan. Today, he's one of the best three-on-three players in the world and suits up as a pro with the hometown Saskatchewan Rattlers.

Linklater said there are many challenges for young people on the west side. He wants to give back so that kids will, "have something in terms of an outlet to create positivity within their lives giving them something to do."

Local organizations are getting on board and NBA Canada is ready to pitch in with an offer of big league backboards and rims.

If you've ever looked for a place to shoot hoops in Saskatoon... often you end up behind a school. There may or may not be mesh in the nets. There's no fencing to stop a runaway ball. And never mind seeing a painted free throw line or a key... you're lucky if the blacktop is intact. Michael Linklater says Saskatoon can do better. He's urging the city to "hoist the hoops" by building a permanent new full-size basketball court. He spoke with Saskatoon Morning's Jennifer Quesnel. 6:23

Build it and they will come

Linklater and his team have also made their pitch at city hall.

"All we're asking from the city is just a section of land. We're going to be doing the fundraising and the building ourselves."

The cost of building an outdoor basketball court on the riverbank in the Riversdale/Pleasant Hill area could be as high as $300,000. To cover the cost, the group has started a campaign on social media called Hoist the Hoops.

with files from Saskatoon Morning

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