We’re celebrating Hoop Shoot history with these Monumental Moments. From the first contest, to the Hoop Shoot going national, to the celebration of 50 years as a national program, these Monumental Moments cover it all.
Frank Hise Starts the Elks Hoop Shoot
In 1946, Frank Hise was walking by a playground in Corvallis, Oregon, when he saw a group of kids playing basketball. But what he really noticed was the kids on the sidelines who weren’t competing.
So Hise stopped the game and lined the kids up for a free throw contest, where the playing field was more level. From the free-throw line, differences in height or speed didn’t matter. It was the first iteration of what we now know as the Elks Hoop Shoot.
The Program Goes National
The program went national in 1972. State winners from 42 states competed in eight regional semifinals, with the winners advancing to compete in the first-ever Elks Hoop Shoot National Finals on March 17, 1973. The contest took place during halftime at the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics National Championship game in Kansas City with 24 Finalists taking their shot at the championship.
Vern Larson Ventures into Volunteering
Vern Larson, the current longest-serving Regional Director, started volunteering with the Hoop Shoot program. Since his humble beginnings as a Lodge volunteer, Vern has been an invaluable member of the Hoop Shoot team, and he’s served as Northwest Central Region 2 Director for 25 years.
The Hoop Shoot was originally limited to school-aged boys, but with increased access for women to athletics, girls stepped up to the line for the first time in 1974. The change was spearheaded by Getty Powell, the first national director of the Hoop Shoot.
Living in the Hall of Fame
The Elks Hoop Shoot officially formed a partnership with the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, one that endures to this day. The Hall of Fame gave the program an even bigger national spotlight by displaying a plaque inscribed with the names of all the National Champions. Today, the Elks Hoop Shoot has a digital exhibit in the Hall of Fame.
Kelly Lane Wins First Back-to-Back Championship
Kelly Lane was the first competitor to win back-to-back Frank Hise National Championships since the program went national. A four-time National Finalist, she went on to become one of the nation’s leaders in free throws in 1985.
Finals Move to Indy
The National Finals established a set location and moved to Indianapolis, where they were held until 1995.
Doris Carie Sinks 25 Free Throws
Doris Carie, sponsored by Effingham, Ill., Lodge No. 1016, became the the first girl to sink a perfect 25 free throws at the Elks Hoop Shoot National Finals. Doris previously competed in the National Finals in 1978, but it wasn’t until her perfect year in 1982 that she won an Emile Brady Award, a Getty Powell Award, and a Frank Hise National Championship.
The Cowgills Claim the Throne
The Cowgill family made their first appearance at the 1988 National Finals. C.J. Cowgill placed first in the 8- to-9-year-old boys division, and he would make it back to the Finals three more times in 1989, 1990 and 1992, winning a Frank Hise National Championship every year. His younger brother, Dakota, made it to the Finals in 1990 and 1995, and their sister KC made it in 1992 and 1993. The Cowgill dynasty continues its Hoop Shoot reign today. In the late 2010s, Dakota’s son, Camden, made it the finals four times in 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019, winning championships in 2016 and 2018. Camden’s brother Kaden has made it to the finals three times in 2017, 2018 and 2020.
The Finals Land in Springfield
The Hoop Shoot National Finals made a brief appearance in Springfield, Mass., in 1991, when they took place in conjunction with the celebration of basketball’s centennial hosted by the Hall of Fame. Four years later, they landed in Springfield again, where they were held for two decades.
Girls Allowed 2.0
For more than three decades, the Hoop Shoot did not have female rebounders at the National Finals. That all changed in 2004, when a review of the program recommended recruiting and promoting female volunteers. In 2006, Meghan Morgan stepped on the court as the first female rebounder at the National Finals. It opened the door for female volunteers to serve in visible roles at the contest.
A Tiebreaker to End All Tiebreakers
In the boys 12-13 division, four boys tied for first at 23/25. Kohl Battleson, Jordan Walker, Brendan Truman, and Zeb Alford all stepped up to the line to shoot sets of five shots to break the tie. Kohl and Jordan dropped outafter the first set, but Brendan and Zeb kept dueling. They needed 75 extra shots to break the tie—the longest shoot-off in Hoop Shoot History. Brendan sank 73, and Zeb made 74 to take home the National Championship. Zeb is a member of the 2022 Hoop Shoot Alumni Advisory Board, fondly known as the BackBoard.
Elks National Foundation Steps Up to the Line
The Hoop Shoot program was administered remotely until the retirement of National Director Cam Cronk in 2012. That year, the oversight and administration of the program was brought under the ENF. Volunteers remain a critical part of making the Hoop Shoot happen.
Sweet Home Chicago
The National Finals were held in Chicago for the first time in 2016, and they’ve taken place in the Windy City ever since. The Elks and Elks National Foundation Headquarters are in Chicago.
For the first time in the program’s history, eight Regional Contests and the National Finals were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Virtual Conclusion and Truncated Season
In March 2020, the 2020 National Finals were canceled while the participants were in the throes of the Regional contests. Twenty-four competitors had already punched their ticket to Chicago. The remaining 48 were left in limbo. One year later, the delayed season commenced with eight virtual Regional Contests. The National Finals was completed virtually throughout April 2021.
That year, the 2021 season ended at the district contests.
The Hoop Shoot Celebrates 50 Years as a National Program
Fifty years after the Hoop Shoot was established as a national program, the Elks will host a gold-medal National Finals to celebrate the golden anniversary at Wintrust Arena, home to the 2021 WNBA Champion Chicago Sky.
The Hoop Shoot’s First Female Regional Director
Lynn Rutherford-Snow smashes the glass backboard
Lynn Rutherford-Snow first experienced the Hoop Shoot when her daughter Ashley competed in 1995. She got involved with the program as a volunteer and became the Virgina State Hoop Shoot Director in 2008. She served that role dutifully and has become renowned for her kindness and her famous cookies. In the 2022-23 season, Lynn will become the first female Regional Director in the program’s history.