About 20 years ago, Doug McKendrick noticed the basketball hoops at Allen Road Park in Sandy Springs had no nets.
“You can’t play basketball without a net,” he said matter-of-factly. “Have you ever seen a high school game, a college game or a NBA game without a net?”
So the businessman, now owner of the renowned McKendrick’s Steak House in Dunwoody, purchased some nets and installed them at the local park for the kids who enjoy playing there.
And he hasn’t stopped. At 73, he no longer installs the nets. “That takes three people and a ladder,” he said.
But he does like to buy up all the basketball nets at the Target on Roswell Road, keep them in the trunk of his car and drop a couple off at the park for the young people playing there to install themselves every few months when they become torn, ragged and fall off.
“This is just something I want to do. I want the kids to have a net,” he said.
McKendrick doesn’t limit his net giving to Allen Road Park. If he is driving around town and notices a basketball goal in a resident’s driveway without a net, he’ll cautiously approach the home owner or a neighbor and give them a net. If no one is around, he’ll just lay the net on the goal and be on his way.
He’s done this throughout metro Atlanta and recently took his campaign to another state after visiting his son who lives in Charlotte, N.C. He saw several kids playing basketball without nets at parks in the area and stopped to give them new nets straight from his stash in his trunk.
At 6-feet, 6-inches, McKendrick is often asked if he plays, or played, basketball. The answer is yes. But it’s the people who taught him the fundamentals and love of the game he credits for inspiring him to give back in a small but meaningful way to others who share a love of hoops.
When he was in the seventh grade, his family moved from Delaware to the small, farm town of Ottawa in Illinois.
“The people there made me who I am,” he said. “I learned so much there.”
It was in this small town, about 84 miles east of Chicago, where he was first recruited to play basketball due to his stature.
“I didn’t know anything about basketball or how to dribble, but the coach saw something in me,” he said.
He played center and went on to play basketball at Ottawa Township High School, a school with a rich basketball history, where he was on his way to becoming an All-State player before he broke his hand his senior year.
His prowess on the court earned him a scholarship to Rice University in Houston, Texas, where he lettered in men’s basketball in 1965 and 1966. He still holds Rice’s single game scoring record. He tallied 47 points in a 1965 game against Georgia Tech.
McKendrick eventually joined the Navy and served on the U.S.S. Dixie from 1969 to 1972. On his first day in the military, an admiral, noticing his height, ordered him to his office and asked if he played basketball. Yes, McKendrick answered. And that began his foray into playing in basketball tournaments around the world when he wasn’t on duty.
In 2011, McKendrick was inducted into the Ottawa Township High School Hall of Fame. He was recognized for helping his team to a 19-0 record his sophomore year and to a sectional title in 1961.
For McKendrick, the time he spent in Ottawa and the people he came to know and love are the reason he wants to help other kids who love to shoot hoops and ensure they have a basketball net on their goals.
“We were never without nets in Ottawa and all I learned there just comes back to helping people,” he said. “I had a wonderful life in Ottawa and always go back to visit. The people there inspire me to give back.”