Youth prevailed as 11-year-old student Don Raymond Skipper III of Winter Haven edged out Winter Haven City Manager Deric Feacher in a friendly basketball free throw challenge staged on Friday, May 9 at Chain Of Lakes Elementary School in Winter Haven.
After watching Feacher sink six of his allotted 15 free throws, Skipper, who gained notoriety for his free throw shooting skills back in March by finishing second in his age bracket in the Florida Knights of Columbus Free Throw Championship, stepped up to the charity stripe and put eight of his shots through the hoop.
Skipper found himself knotted in a 6-6 tie with the city manager after taking his first 10 shots. However, he clinched the victory by connecting on two of his final five free throws. The shoot-off was staged on an outdoor basketball court at the school and was witnessed by Skipper’s parents, many of his classmates, his fifth grade teacher Dustin Burson and three representatives of Knights of Columbus Council 7091, including Grand Knight Sal Porta.
“It was an honor to be able to spend 10 minutes shooting free throws with this fine young man. I always appreciate the opportunity to give back to the children of Winter Haven,” said Feacher, who admitted being a bit off his game due to a flight back to Florida from Atlanta late on Thursday night. The city manager said he would “welcome” the opportunity for a rematch with Skipper.
Skipper, a fifth-grader at Chain Of Lakes Elementary School, said he “enjoyed and appreciated” the opportunity to compete one-on-one with the city manager and looks forward to a rematch and being involved in the next round of the K of C free throw competition tentatively scheduled for February 2015. The young athlete’s father, Don Raymond Skipper, said a rematch with Feacher would be a good “tune up” for next year’s K of C competition.
Friday’s friendly free throw challenge was arranged in late March when Feacher called Skipper on the phone to congratulate him after reading media reports about his second-place finish in the K of C state championship at Haines City High School. During the course of this conversation Feacher challenged Skipper to the shoot-off.
The official scorekeeper for the challenge was Billy Bob Morris, who also chaired the local free throw contest sponsored by K of C Council 7091 of Cypress Gardens where Skipper began his quest for the state championship. After winning on the local level at Polk State College, Skipper earned a berth in the state finals by scoring impressive victories in the district round at St. Joseph’s School in Winter Haven and the regional round in Kissimmee.
The K of C Youth Free Throw Championship is a major youth initiative of the Knights of Columbus. Each year more than 200,000 young sharpshooters from all over the United States participate in competitions sponsored by local K of C councils.