Mike Slonina is determined to settle an argument. With all of the outstanding high school basketball players in Massachusetts, adorned with either accolades or street credentials to their name, Slonina wants to know one simple thing: who among them is the best shooter in the state.
That’s where the first A Shot for Life Challenge enters the equation, the invention of the 20-year-old college junior, who has started a nonprofit with the same moniker. Originally inspired by his mother’s brain cancer diagnosis, Slonina set out to help raise money for cancer research and in turn found himself on the hardwood floors of Catholic Memorial two years ago, shooting a basketball for 24 straight hours to raise awareness and more than $30,000 in funds for the cause.
“I couldn’t just not do anything about it,” Slonina said.
Fast forward to 2013, Slonina and his mother, Betsy Cullen, are relieved to know that she received a false diagnosis. But that hasn’t altered his mission. Slonina still intends to help fight cancer and he has returned to the basketball court to aid his mission.
At 1 p.m. Saturday Aug. 3, 11 of the state’s top high school basketball players will compete in the challenge, shooting for two straight hours at the University Sports Complex in Hanover. The winner, which will be determined by field goal percentage, will be named the best shooter in Massachusetts, a grand designation with some of the state’s most coveted players taking part.
There's the reigning state Gatorade player of the year, Tyler Gibson (Rockland), and then three-point specialists Nick McKenna (Danvers) and Vinny Clifford (Danvers). Also taking part are Ben Judson (St. John’s Prep), Sam Bohmiller (Franklin), Tommy Mobley (Newton North), Jake Foote (Duxbury), Ryan Roach (Cardinal Spellman), Scott Arsenault (Walpole), Mike Nelson (Bishop Feehan), and Shiraz Mumtaz (Brookline).
“From a basketball standpoint, the stakes are very high,” Slonina said. “We wanted to make sure the kids that are involved in the event are the best in the state.”
All proceeds are going to brain cancer research at Massachusetts General Hospital.
If all goes well, Slonina envisions the challenge becoming a yearly event.
“I fully plan on taking this nationwide,” Slonina said.
“I’m one of those people [who] don’t do anything halfway. Nothing matters to me as much as this. ... In my mind, we’re just warming up.”
Slonina added: “In five years, I want to be raising more than a million dollars.”
For now, A Shot for Life will settle to just fill the University Sports Complex.
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