Conway notebook | Police organizing Midnight (in name only) Basketball league

The Conway Police Department has two goals for a Midnight (in name only) Basketball league it wants to debut at the end of January.

Sgt. Darren Alston, who is overseeing the program, said the department wants to establish a good relationship between the department and kids and their parents. Goal number two is to give kids a reason to do something other than congregate on corners.

“Instead of hanging out in the street,” Alston said, “we’re going to get them into the recreation center.”

The games will be begin at 8 p.m. on Saturday nights, hence the reason that the tongue-in-cheek Notebook added (in name only) to the police department’s choice of simply Midnight Basketball. Alston said the recreation matches will be shorter in length than regular basketball games and two can be held simultaneously at the rec center, so it’s unlikely that even the last of each night’s three games will extend to the bewitching hour.

Alston is hoping the first in the series of games will be able to debut the last Saturday in January.

He said officers have named six teams, four of which are takeoffs on the department’s four shift names, one other sort of evokes the department’s Support Team and the final a highfalutin’ name given to the team said to represent Chief Reggie Gosnell and other top brass. The names, starting with the shifts and ending with the brass, are Alpha Avengers, Bravo Ballers, Charlie Chargers, Delta Dreamteam, Superstars and High Speed Hoopsters.

The department is hoping to recruit 60 players – 10 for each team – from the fifth to 12th grade of kids who may aim to make an organized team and want to sharpen their skills as well as those who just want to shoot some hoops.

The teams are to be divided into age groups, with Alpha, Bravo and Charlie to be composed of fifth, sixth and seventh graders and the remaining teams of eighth through 12th graders.

Applications have been distributed to Conway’s three elementary schools, two middle schools and Conway High School. Coaches for two of the teams will be police officers, Alston said, but he’s hoping the others will be volunteers from the community.

Teams will practice each Friday before the Saturday games.

The department got a grant for team uniforms, but everything else is being done gratis.

The department also is organizing a team of officers, which Alston said may play championship games against the winner of each division.

While the name of the league may be jokingly (in name only), Alston said the spirit of the effort is 100 percent genuine.

Each of every team’s 10 members will get a chance to play in every game, he said.

Merry and happy ...

There are those in and out of Conway who will tell you that Darren Smith may be one of the town’s most important residents.

Smith is chef/owner of the Rivertown Bistro and the restaurant and its chef rate four-and-one-half stars out of five among 77 diners who posted reviews on

“Upscale and unexpected,” wrote jims of Greenville. “Rivals anything in Charleston or Greenville.”

“Chef Darren Smith is one of the South’s most underrated foodsmiths,” said bewen4 of Asheville, N.C. “What sets him apart from so many of his peers is his imaginative combinations or fusions of cuisine.”

As a holiday present to all, The Notebook has secured one of Smith’s recipes.

Turnip, Fennel & Butternut Squash Ragout (pronounced ra-goo with an emphasis on the goo)

6 ounces bacon (medium diced)

1 bunch turnips with greens (separated, cleaned thoroughly)

1 bulb fennel (bulb only, thinly sliced)

1 small butternut squash (peeled, seeded, 1/2-inch dice)

4 cups chicken broth (or water)

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon total salt

1 teaspoon total pepper

1 tablespoon olive oil

good quality vinegar (sherry or apple cider)

In a large pot, sauté bacon over medium heat until fat is rendered (5-10 minutes). Peel and dice turnips (1 inch) and add to pot. Cook two minutes, add turnip greens, cook two more minutes constantly stirring. Add chicken broth and season with sugar, 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. pepper. Simmer until just cooked (10-15 minutes). While simmering, toss fennel and squash with 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a baking dish. Roast in 360-degree oven until just cooked (20 minutes). Add to turnip pot and taste for seasoning. Stir in a splash of vinegar.

The recipe makes use of seasonal vegetables, a technique for which Smith is well-known. He said this is a great dish on its own, but you also can stir in some rice and serve with a chicken breast for a complete meal.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.