File photo from Justin Wynn Leadership Academy

The Justin Wynn Leadership Academy’s 3-on-3 basketball tournament is back after a one-year hiatus.

JWLA has an annual 3-on-3 basketball tournament where numerous elementary and middle school players participate. The tournament did not take place last year because of the pandemic. This year, it will take place on June 26 at Mason Park, Church Street at Florence Avenue. The three-on-three tournament is very meaningful to the JWLA community because it brings kids together to compete while also nurturing leadership. Supporting kids is at the foundation of the Justin Wynn Leadership Academy. 

The Justin Wynn Fund was founded in 1987 by Marcia and Michael Wynn and  other community members  to memorialize Mr. and Mrs. Wynn’s son, Justin, who died in a swimming accident when he was 9. From 1987 to 2002, the Justin Wynn Award was given out to one fourth-grader from each of the District 65 schools. The award winners (“Wynners”) had to demonstrate strong leadership, citizenship, and sportsmanship. In 1997, the Justin Wynn Leadership Academy was created. JWLA gave recipients of the Justin Wynn Award the ability to improve their leadership through community service. Starting in 2002, each District 65 school awarded two students as the enrollment at District 65 schools continued to grow. Wynners can participate in the JWLA from fifth to twelfth grade.

File photo from Justin Wynn Leadership Academy

Carrie Ost, the program director for JWLA said, “In a typical year, it’s at Beardsley Gym at ETHS, and we’ll run two tournaments simultaneously. There will be over 200 kids participating and fans in the stands. We’ll sell concessions and T-shirts and all the players always get T-shirts, and there are prizes for the winning teams.”

Sue Thompson, Executive Director of the Justin Wynn Fund, added, “Last year we got shut down right before the pandemic, but we just started a girls bracket which was very popular.”

The basketball tournament will follow COVID-19  precautions. The tournament will be held outside and will follow the City of Evanston guidelines. Ms. Ost and  Ms. Thompson will also require players to wear masks during the tournament. 

Teams can register with three or four players. Third and fourth grade co-ed games start at 9 a.m. Fifth and sixth grade co-ed games start at 11a.m. Fourth-through-sixth-grade girls games start at 1 p.m., and seventh and eighth grade co-ed games start at 3 p.m. Everyone participating should arrive 15 minutes prior to their start time.

Ms. Ost said, “Kids of all ability levels at basketball [can play], because you don’t have to be excellent to grab some friends and participate. It is super cheap, so it’s really accessible for any kids to be able to play. The Justin Wynn Fund is all about helping nurture leadership, citizenship, and sportsmanship in kids, and we really emphasize playing with good sportsmanship throughout this tournament. The kids will sign a code of conduct, and they will get a pep talk at the beginning about the importance of just being good sports, so it’s just a way to spread that feeling of sportsmanship around the Evanston community.”

Ms. Thompson stated, “One of the ways we are looking at the tournament this year is that it’s been such a rough year, and we just want to provide something fun. It’s not a fundraiser, it’s just a community event that we haven’t been able to do something like this in a while, and our kids love to volunteer at this event and play in this event. We are just really excited to be offering this community event.”

More  information about the 3-on-3 basketball tournament is available  at