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story.lead_photo.caption Charlee Bailey, 11, practices before 2019's NBA Skills Challenge at The LINC. Her older brother, Jackson, placed second in the national competition two years prior. Photo by Gerry Tritz / News Tribune.

Children in the Jefferson City area soon will have a chance to prove their skills on the court during the Jr. NBA Skills Challenge.

Each year, the Jefferson City Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department hosts the basketball competition at The Linc as part of a nationwide program.

On Jan. 19, children ages 13 and younger will have a chance to compete in a basketball shoot-out to see who can score the most points.

With one minute on the clock and their name on the scoreboard, each child will dribble a ball through a zig-zag of cones from half-court to the 3-point line — then the real challenge begins. On the floor will be several squares with numbers inside.

Depending on which square they are standing on when they make baskets, the athletes will gain points toward their total score. Some of the easier shots are worth less, while more difficult shots will be worth more points.

A shot from behind the 3-point line is worth six points, there are two squares at the free-throw line worth four points, two squares a bit closer worth three points and two squares just under the basket worth one point.

When the minute is up, they have a chance to earn bonus points by shooting a free throw.

The competitors are divided into four categories — girls 11U, boys 11U, girls 13U and boys 13U.

The 11U age group will be children born on or after Sept. 1, 2008, and the 13U groups are children born between Sept. 1, 2006, and Aug. 31, 2008.

Steve Schellman, youth sports program manager for the Parks Department, said they've had children as young as 8 compete against the older children. There is no specific age minimum to participate.

"You never know, there could be a 9-year-old that's just as good as some of the 11-year-olds," Schellman said.

The top three scorers in each division will move on to the regional competition April 26 in Kansas City. From there, the first-place scorer in each division will move on to the National Finals in New York City, which is held during the NBA Draft.

Children who make it to nationals will receive gift bags, have a chance to meet NBA players and draftees, and attend the draft. The trip is also all expenses paid.

Jefferson City has sent a few children to the regional and national competitions. Last year, then-11-year-old Maddy Larkin became the first Jefferson City child to win at finals in any division.

The local event is scheduled at 3 p.m. Jan. 19 at The Linc, 1299 Lafayette St. in Jefferson City. Parents can register their children at the event or through the Parks Department website.

Each child will receive a certificate and medal at the local competition, and Schellman said the main goal is for the participants to have fun.

"We're always trying to provide safe, fun and enjoyable activities for the kids in our community," Schellman said. "This is just another way of doing that. We hope they have fun and enjoy the spirit of competition."

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