In its 4th year, tourney is well on its way
By Jared Ritz
For nine hours this weekend, the streets of a large chunk of Havre's business district will be shut down.
From the Atrium Mall to Stockman Bank, from Koefod Agency to the Hill County annex building, downtown will be filled with hundreds of people hundreds of basketball players, referees, coaches and fans, to be exact.
Not to mention countless round, orange balls, 14 basketball hoops, and one furiously busy taco cart.
Starting at 9 a.m. Saturday, Havre will host the fourth annual Nothing But Net 3-on-3 basketball tournament. Nearly 60 teams will play, split into eight divisions, four for boys and four for girls. Kids in grades four through 12 are permitted to participate, with each team consisting of three starting players and no more than one substitute.
This year's turnout will be a little larger than the last, and is a giant step up from when the tournament started, said D.J. Baker, one of the event's organizers.
Four years ago, Bob Evans and Melissa Jamieson proposed the idea, which, Evans said, originated with Jamieson.
She used to take her sons' three-person team all over the state to play in tournaments.
"They were going every weekend to play basketball in towns a lot smaller than Havre," Evans said. "I just knew we needed one."
In the summer of 1999 they held the first tournament. It was a success, with about 40 teams showing up. The year after, it grew to about 45.
Then the Havre Area Chamber of Commerce was asked to step in.
According to Baker, who is a member of the Chamber and works at Culligan Water in Havre, the tournament went to the Chamber because of the size it was, and was about to become.
"It grew so much it came to the Chamber for a little assistance," Baker said.
Now in its second year under Chamber control, the tournament is larger than ever. Changes have been made in the setup of the event, with sponsors' dollars being used to buy the hoops. For this service, each business's logo will be on its hoop.
About 50 volunteers are needed to make the event run smoothly, and the Chamber involvement makes finding those volunteers easier, Baker said.
Evans thinks that with more than 55 teams taking part last year, the tourney he started has found a good home.
"I think it is getting better every year," he said. "That allowed 200 kids to enjoy themselves for a day."
Which is really the main goal and what the tournament is all about the kids.
"I wholeheartedly believe Havre is in need of something like this," said Brent Reber, owner of Credit Bureau of Havre and member of the Chamber's board of directors. "It's a summertime event that the younger kids ... can (use to) hone in on their skills for next year."
The tournament can also help those kids go to college.
At last year's competition, four $250 scholarships were given away. This year, four scholarships will again be given; this time they will each be worth $1,000.
"Through the help of the college and some local businesses, we have been able to make that a little more appealing," Baker said.
Applicants must be a junior in high school or older, they must fill out an application and write an essay, and most importantly, participate in the tournament.
The money can only be used by students who go on to attend Montana State University-Northern. Baker hopes that next year the trend will continue and more money will be available for those who play.
"That's the reason for doing this, is to give back to the kids," he said. "We know it's going to a good cause."
Teams come from all over the state to play in the tournament, and sometimes even farther. This year, a team in the high school girls division is traveling 300 miles from Williston, N.D. The train ride will probably be well worth it, though, and not that much of a change. They often travel to another tournament 225 miles away.
Eric Fee, the father of one of the players, is the coach of the team, and said that, like many other teams, the girls play in 3-on-3 tourneys all the time.
"They go to tournaments almost every weekend," he said. "Sports are their life."
According to Gerry Veis, who coaches a team of Havre incoming ninth-graders that participates in a number of 3-on-3 and 5-on-5 tournaments, such competitions are a recent development.
"When you look about 15 years back," he said, "there wasn't any kind of 5-on-5 or 3-on-3 tournaments at all."
Veis took his team to Hoopfest earlier in the season, where it took second. The event has more than 6,000 teams participating, and Veis describes it as the world's biggest fair, with basketball hoops instead of carnival rides. The event is internationally known, and takes over a large part of Spokane on a yearly basis. It has grown this much in a little over a decade.
Baker thinks that 3-on-3 tourneys, especially the one in Havre, are a positive change on the sporting horizon.
"It's something I wish I had when I was younger," he said.
Registration starts at 8 a.m. Saturday morning in the Atrium parking lot. Round-robin play will begin at 9, which will determine the seeding for the bracketed tournament at 1:30 p.m. Three-point and slam dunk competitions will start at 11:30 a.m. Taco John's will provide a taco cart during lunch.