Dribble, dribble, dribble, dribble. Breathe. Shoot.
That free-throw shooting routine has helped 8-year-old Cole Pentelute forget about what’s at stake and focus solely on the rim 15 feet away.
The Pleasant Grove third-grader will take his ball and his routine to Springfield, Mass., home of the National Basketball Hall of Fame, next month for the national finals of the annual Elks Hoop Shoot free-throw contest.
"It feels good," Pentelute said about representing Utah in the national event.
Pentelute, who attends Lincoln Academy, won five different competitions to reach the national event, at which he will represent the Western region in the boys’ 8- and 9-year-old division. He started at the elementary-school level, advanced to the Lodge level, then to district, state and regionals, last month in Las Vegas.
Pentelute made 21 of 25 free-throw attempts in that competition and forced a five-shot tie-breaker with the nationals at stake.
"It’s very tense when you know they have a chance," said Kim Pentelute, Cole’s mother, who estimated her son advanced through a field of approximately 200,000 players. "We felt it was his to lose coming in because he really has been shooting good."
Cole, who also plays baseball and football, will travel with mom and dad, Mat, to Massachusetts from April 18 to 20. It will be the first time Cole will be apart from his twin brother, Josh.
Pentalute, who will represent Provo Elks Lodge 849, has put in his work to get here. He practiced upwards of 90 minutes a day, every day but Sunday.
He is one of three Utahns who reached the finals, which has three age categories (8-9, 10-11, 12-13) for each gender, and 12 regional winners in each division. Richfield’s Mayci Torgerson will represent the 10-11 girls, and Paige Koeven will represent the 12-13 girls.
Six Utahns have claimed the top prize since the competition began in 1973. Perhaps the most recognized was former Utah Ute and Sacramento Monarch guard Morgan Warburton in 2001.
Central Valley’s Kaden King was a two-time winner in the boys’ 8-9 division (2004) and 10-11 division (2006). NBA Hall of Famer Chris Mullin won the boys’ 10-11 division in 1974.
His pre-shot routine may help calm the few nerves he has — "I wasn’t really nervous" during the regional tie-breaker — it does little to settle the anxiety of mom and dad in the stands.
"I think we’re way more nervous than he is," Kim said. "But it’s so fun."
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