Nine-year-old Xavier Brown’s first shot on the alleyway basketball court was an air ball.
“I’ll pass it to you. Then you’ll make it,” said Ian Lowe, who bought the Ruby Street house in March 2018 — basketball court included.
After a few more shots, Xavier did. Swish.
Previous owner Dave Porter opened the court in 2003. He named it Tornado Alley after McCaskey High School’s mascot the “Red Tornado.”
Since Lowe became owner, the court has been quieter than it was under Porter.
But the 26-year-old is determined to keep the neighborhood court alive.
‘Didn’t think it was possible’
Last January, Porter was forced to sell the home due to financial issues. When Lowe bought it, he said he wanted to keep the court going.
“Everything that was here was Dave (Porter). He’s the one to thank. I’m the caretaker,” Lowe said.
Porter, 63, since moved to Palm Beach, an island off the east coast of Florida.
“I still think about it a lot,” he said. “I miss the Tornado Alley family.”
There’s no basketball on the island, Porter said in a phone interview from the beach. It’s a “simple life,” he said, going to the beach in the morning and working at a fish market in the afternoon. He lives near his sister.
“To have somebody take it over where I left off ... I didn’t think it was possible,” Porter said.
The transition wasn’t without challenges, Lowe said. At first he struggled to find the right home insurance policy. For a few months he kept a trailer parked out back to block the court. Lowe got some help with finding insurance from the West Lancaster Jewels neighborhood group, which formed in early 2018.
By summer Lowe got the policy figured out. He had to hang a “Private Property” sign on the court as part of the contract. He also hung an “open” sign but thinks area kids might not know they can come by and play.
Lowe works at Terre Hill Concrete during the day. In the evenings, he hangs out on the court as much as he can.
“You have to make the first move because it’s your house,” he said. “That’s why I try to come out as much as I can. I say, ‘Hey, have fun. Let me know if you need anything.’”
Casey Flores, chair of the West Lancaster Jewels Neighborhood committee, said the group wants to help keep Tornado Alley going.
“I think it’s a great staple and a point in our neighborhood that’s been cared for carefully,” she said.
‘Work in progress’
Tornado Alley looks a little different since Lowe bought the house. A neighbor and friends repainted the three walls around the half-court. Someone donated two trash cans. He set up a new surveillance camera to have just in case. A few weeks ago, he bought a new net.
The court was filled with kids in the spring but has been quiet this summer, Lowe said.
One thing that hasn’t changed is his basketball skills, Lowe said.
“Oh, I’m really bad at it,” he said. “It’s a work in progress.”