ROCKFORD - Basketball was one of Antonio Little's passions in life. Now two years after his death his former South Beloit teammates and coach are paying tribute to that passion and to Little.
The 2008-09 South Beloit basketball team was a tight group and a winning group....the winningest team in SoBos history. The SoBos went 28-2 that season and Antonio Little was one of the star players and leaders.
"Antonio always had so much adrenalin, so much passion about the game of basketball," says his former teammate Matt Peterson. "He always made sure, especially that year, that we weren't going to finish third or fourth which is what we were projected to at the beginning of the year. That we were going to go on a run and win those games."
The head coach of that team was current Rockford District 205 Director of Athletics Mat Parker.
"He was a great kid. A leader, polite, genuine," says Parker.
Two years ago Little, who had been employed by the YMCA of Rock River Valley, died unexpectedly. His body was discovered in the Rock River. Did he take his own life? Was he the victim of foul play?
"The shock was unreal because it was one of those things where what could have been done differently? There's always that what-if," says Peterson.
No one can change the past but Parker and Little's former teammates are moving forward by hosting a Memorial Tournament in Little's honor. They held a mini 3-on-3 reunion tournament two years ago in Parker's driveway after Little's death, but this year they're taking it to a new level by putting on a tournament at the UW-Health Sports Factory in downtown Rockford.
"We just felt it was important that we made it into something bigger and that we had it in downtown Rockford here," says Parker. "Antonio was working at the Y so nearby where he was employed and living."
Little's parents and his son will attend the tournament and money raised from it will all go to the South Beloit Booster Club.
"It's going to be a fun bracketed tournament that's going to last most of the day," says Parker.
Parker thinks Little would be pleased that his former team is creating something positive with basketball as the centerpiece.
"I think he'd love the concept," says Parker.
"Basketball was a huge thing for him, so we want to show through basketball some of the things that he's done and by having a tournament in his name we're able to do that," says Peterson.
The Antonio Little Memorial Tournament will be held August 12, 2017 at the UW Health Sports Factory.
There is a 5 on 5 full court tournament for adults and high school players. The cost is $100 per team.
There are 3 on 3 half court tournaments for kids in two divisions 2nd grade-5th grade and 6th grade-8th grade. The cost for those teams is $50.
Several sponsorship levels are also available. Sponsorship forms and team registration forms are available at the Rockford Public School Athletic Office (501 7th Street, 5th floor athletics) in Rockford. with Mat Parker. Team registration will be closing soon.
For more information contact: Mat Parker at (815) 289-2939
Sign up sheet-https://docs.google.com/document/d/1TF0qJ1M1vT2tnCCdbFFcw1r4oesrFjfddwHNNDSp50/edit?usp=sharing
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