By Mike Max

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The Alexandria Aces have been showing off their basketball-handling skills for nearly three decades.

This past Sunday, the fixture in the Minnesota basketball community took their final bow.

The Aces were founded by Larry Novotny.

“I used to do halftime shows, started at Golden Valley Lutheran with Flip Saunders, and after a few years I quit doing them, and the coaches in town in Alexandria said, ‘Hey, teach our kids some fun fundamentals of basketball,’” Novotny said. “And so we did, and got 15 kids to show up, fourth, fifth, sixth grade. And within a couple years we’re doing halftimes at Timberwolves games, NBA, NCAA. I had no idea it was going to happen.”

What happened was an organic growth. Kids performing across the country, going into arenas and becoming a memorable halftime show. The boys and girls in fourth through sixth grade participate in something with bright lights and lots of fans.

“It’s awesome because we get to go on a whole bunch of basketball courts where amazing players have been, and we get to watch some good basketball games on top of doing the things that we love,” said Alexandria Aces member Carver Larson.

(credit: CBS)

As they gather Sunday to perform for the Timberwolves game, it is significant, because it is the last. After 30 years, the Aces are going away.

“It’s hard to get kids now,” Novotny said. “Kids are so busy with traveling sports. We used to get 50 kids turning out, this year we go zero. And so families are just torn apart, every direction, and so it’s hard to find extracurricular time.”

But what a ride it’s been for Novotny. He had no idea what would come together. It continued to get better, and it continued to grow.

“Many highlights. I can’t tell you just one because we’ve been so many places,” he said. “Every year provides two or three new incredible adventures. I just can’t even explain it.”

And these kids that participate have been able to figure out that being a bit of a showman gives you the tingles. Some have translated the skills and become pretty good players into high school and college.

“Their ball-handling skills are way above the other kids that … don’t come through the program. We’ve had a couple kids go Division I and lot of them go to college,” Novotny said. “It’s pretty special.”

Because to be an Ace is to be free to create on the court.

“It’s been really fun to go to all these different colleges and their big arenas,” said Aces member Mason Gorghuber.

And it’s been quite a ride to be the man who created it.

“It’s been awesome. Getting to go to every arena in the country and watching the kids succeed, it’s been such a blessing, I can’t even explain it to you,” Novotny said.

Mike Max