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Free throws net Thanksgiving turkeys

By: David Wallace | Farmington Press | Published November 30, 2011

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FARMINGTON HILLS — Basketball players usually win trophies, but the winners of the Recreation Division’s annual free-throw shooting competition take home a unique Thanksgiving prize.

In the Farmington Hills annual Turkey Shoot, held Nov. 21 this year, entrants make 10 free throw shots. The person with the best percentage in his or her age group goes home with a frozen turkey.

Contestants stepped to the free throw line inside the Costick Center’s Dublin Gym and became the center of attention for the 20 or so people gathered for the seventh annual competition.

While adults have the size and strength to shoot flat-footed, the youngest competitors took jump shots from the free throw line.

Addison Kalmbach of Farmington Hills competed in the 8- and 9-year-old boys division. He likes that he put the turkey on the table this year.

“It’ll be extra tasty,” said Kalmbach.

Aniya Jones of Farmington Hills, who did the same in the 8- and 9-year-old girls division, said that the turkey would taste “delicious.”

She said it was a little scary standing at the free-throw line with everyone watching, but she was pleased with her performance.

“She’s doing great,” said her dad, LeMoyne Jones.

Also doing great was her big sister, Moya Jones, who took home a turkey for the 10- and 11-year-old girls division.

“They did great. I’m proud of them,” said mom Shawna Jones.

Multiple families had multiple winners. Keeping up with the Joneses was the Bukhtia family, in which three siblings won turkeys.

“You’ve got to practice free throws. It’s an important part of the game. The most important thing to practice is shooting under pressure, though,” said Amanda Bukhtia, who won the adult women’s division. Sister Angela won the 14- and 15-year-old girls division, and brother Andrew won the 10- and 11-year-old boys division.

Andrew made six of his 10 free throws, but he held himself to a high standard when judging his performance.

“I’m not too happy with it, but I can do better,” he said.

The one all others aspired to be was Kwame Hooker of West Bloomfield, who won the adult men’s division. He made nine free throws with impressive precision and a smooth shooting motion, and the shot that didn’t go through the net barely missed.

“You don’t get much better than that,” said Farmington Hills recreation programmer David Miller.

Hooker, 39, said he has been playing basketball since he was 11. He usually plays the shooting or point guard positions, and since those positions handle the ball a lot, they also draw fouls.

“I just kind of let my body do the mechanics. I don’t really think about it,” said Hooker.

“It’s like walking. You’re either going to do it or you’re not,” he said.

He had some advice for children who might want to better their free-throw shooting.

“Keep that basketball with you all the time and just practice. Just relax, relate and release,” he said with a smile.

Hooker said he played basketball throughout high school and never lost passion for the game. He still enjoys playing in his driveway and feels that basketball is a good lifetime sport for staying fit.

Hooker was a repeat winner. Last year, he hit all 10 shots. He agreed that winning the Thanksgiving turkey is satisfying.

“Last year, it was definitely good,” said Hooker. “This year, we’re going to deep-fry this one.”

The Busch’s Fresh Food Market on Drake Road and the Kroger on 12 Mile provided the turkeys for the competition, which cost residents $5 to enter and nonresidents $10. Some of the age groups only had one entrant, so more kids might want to try their hand at it next year.

Though it is a competition, the Turkey Shoot has a friendly, supportive environment in which everyone claps for everyone else. The Bukhtias exemplified some of that sportsmanship in giving one of their turkeys to a family that didn’t win.

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