City Lights: Hoops of Hope winner trounces city editor

I am never going to challenge Spencer Escarro to a journalism contest.

That's because, after he trounced me at basketball Friday afternoon, I don't want to risk another humiliation at the hands of a 7-year-old. I have to maintain my dignity somehow.

Spencer, a first-grader at Circle View Elementary School, won the Hoops of Hope charity free-throw tournament at Huntington Beach High School on May 6. In a gym surrounded by players who towered over him, he shot 1,046 free throws and landed 436 of them, leading the competition in both categories.

The event, put on by the school's World Vision Club, netted more than $1,600 for African children orphaned by HIV/AIDS. According to Patricia Cosulich, the club's co-president, about 50 people joined in the competition, but only a few stayed shooting baskets for hours on end.

That included Spencer, who has a basketball hoop set up in the living room and another in the backyard. His dream in life is to play for the Lakers, and he's even decorated the family bird feeder with Kobe Bryant's jersey number, 24.

Spencer heard about Hoops of Hope through his older sister, who knows Patricia through Girl Scouts. He didn't practice, per se, but considering that he shoots baskets multiple times a day, perhaps he didn't need to.

As I listened to Spencer talk nonchalantly about his years of practicing free throws, I wondered if I could hold my own against him. So as soon as our interview was done, I challenged him to a contest in the backyard — 50 free throws each, whoever gets more baskets wins.

Spencer's mother and grandmother followed us out to keep score, and he and I stood equal distances from the hoop. On the fourth or fifth shot, I jumped to a 1-0 lead. Then, after a rocky start, the kid came alive. By the time we completed 50 throws, he stood on top by a handsome 18-13.

Of course, after No. 50, Spencer stayed on the court shooting more baskets. According to his grandmother, he did that at Hoops of Hope as well, and the organizers had to stop him to tell him he'd won.

The irony of ironies? Spencer's prize for winning Hoops of Hope was a pair of Angels tickets, and baseball is the one sport that bores him.

Come to think of it, maybe it's good that baseball isn't Spencer's thing. Considering that I went 1-for-34 in one season of Little League, I think any first-grader could mop the floor with me.

City Editor MICHAEL MILLER can be reached at (714) 966-4617 or at

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