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Volunteers make 68-year-old tournament one of the best

Stat keepers, hospitality room hosts keep Kendall Arnett unique
By: Jenifer Gee Journal Staff Writer
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In its 68th year, the Kendall Arnett Boys Basketball Tournament stands out simply for being the oldest tournament in the state. But the real power behind the classic Auburn event are the parents and community members who volunteer their time to make the three days of high school basketball games – as one volunteer puts it - “one of the best tournaments in the nation.” Placer High School athletic director and boys basketball head coach Mark Lee has organized the annual tournament for about 15 years. “There are so many jobs to do,” Lee said. “Without the volunteers, there is no tournament.” He said much of the event’s success hinges on helpers such as the freshmen basketball team members cleaning the lockers, sweeping the floors and keeping the snack bar stocked with ice. Then there is Matt Folsom, the voice of the tournament, who said he’s been lucky for the past five years to be asked back to narrate the play-by-play action that unfolds at Placer High’s 73-year-old Earl Crabbe Gymnasium in Auburn. “I get the best seat in the house at one of the greatest tournaments in the nation,” Folsom said. Folsom said he likes being in the middle of the action and said the “headliner” game featuring Placer’s varsity Hillmen is “always the best.” “It’s special to be here in this old gym,” Folsom said. And while Folsom is sitting center courtside booming out shooter names or possibly one of three of his signature phrases – one of his favorites is when a player makes a basket and then the foul shot, they “buy two and get one free” – an Auburn couple is sitting above documenting every player’s moves. During each tournament game, Ron and Colleen Roskelley sit in the front row of the stands. With Palm PDAs in hand, the duo documents every rebound, shot, assist, hustle points made by players from both teams. As soon as a game is over, they rush down to their computer, set up in a chilly side room, download the information and print out the statistics of each player for the team coaches. Colleen Roskelley said the couple loves keeping up with the action and have been documenting statistics for every Placer High School game – home and away – for almost a decade. “I love it – that’s it,” Colleen Roskelley said. “I love the game of basketball. I always have. (Keeping statistics) just makes it fun so we keep doing it.” The parents who staff the snack bar and those who keep the food hot and plentiful at the hospitality room set up for coaches and referees are another volunteer-led effort that make the tournament unique to others in the area, Lee said. Adriana Jensen, whose son, Michael, plays for varsity, has been organizing food collection for the hospitality room set off to the side of the gym. Each night of tournament play will have a different themed meal for the coaches and referees who need a place to relax and get a bite to eat. Monday night, Jensen, and fellow parent volunteers Denell Aubuchon and Kathy Klem, were readying the room for a Mexican fiesta. Tuesday night they’ll treat their guests to an Italian dish and Wednesday pulled pork sandwiches will be on the menu. Jensen said volunteers make arrangements to have the main course catered. Different teams take turns supplying six appetizers and six desserts to round out the meal. Jensen said that making sure the hospitality room is as hospitable as possible is just another tradition like the tournament itself. “We’re very proud of our tournament and it’s just a Hillmen tradition,” Jensen said. “They know when they come to our tournament that they can come hungry.” And for many of the volunteers they have memories of not only helping out, but also attending the tournament. Colleen Roskelley’s two older brothers played for the Hillmen and the Placer graduate said she remembers the tournament “was just the place to be.” Lee credits the nostalgia of the event, the help from volunteers and the support that he is grateful to have from the community among the reasons why the high school tournament has withstood the test of time. “People come back here during the holidays – alumni and students – and say, ‘I’ll see you at the Kendall,” Lee said. “It’s like a class reunion every year.” Jenifer Gee can be reached at jeniferg@goldcountrymedia.com.