Of God and Basketball

Upward Basketball players look for a rebound at Walnut Creek Downtown.

As the first round of the NCAA Tournament kicks off this week, another successful season of Upward basketball through Walnut Creek Church has officially come to an end. A total of 631 basketball players and 83 cheerleaders in grades kindergarten through eighth participated in this year’s program.

“My favorite part was making new friends,” said second grade basketball player Noah Lima. “I worked on my shooting form and cross-over dribble and learned that God is with us through it all.” Kindergarten basketball player Ahman Johnson offered a similar review: “I liked learning how to shoot and learning to be a good teammate and how to play the game and have fun.”

The boys’ dad D’Angelo Johnson coached both teams. “I enjoyed being there and encouraging them from the sidelines and really being involved with their development both on the court and during devotional times,” Johnson said.

Besides being the biggest Upward basketball season yet, it was also the most organized. “We put in a lot of time in the off season that would make it more organized,” said Emily Warford, who volunteers on Walnut Creek’s Upward basketball board. “We also met every week as a board to talk about how things were going.”

The devotional videos shown at half time were a highlight of this year’s season. Every Walnut Creek Church pastor took a week to share something related to the theme, “The person and work of Jesus,” in videos produced by Matt Shattuck and SueAnn Chong. The pastors used the opportunity to share the gospel with the kids and their families and to tell them how much God loves them and what it means to be a follower of Christ.

The nine-week season was also divided into three areas of focus: self-control, responsibility, and hope. Each area of focus featured a bible verse that the players and coaches worked on memorizing over the three-week period.

Other Upward basketball board members include Dave Rude, Chrissy Bloom, Rachel Bohacek, Becca Close, KayDee Cross, Jen Engdahl, Blake Kruger, Kyle Kurtenbach, Ricki Meyer, Leah Wake, and Joel Winters.

“It’s great to see Christ’s body coming together and people dying to themselves and putting in lots of time to make the league as successful as it was,” Kurtenbach said. “The kids gained a good balance of learning how to play the game of basketball and how God fits in—not only into basketball, but also their lives.”