The annual 3-on-3 basketball tournament will be run by different organizers this year and there are a lot of changes in store for the event that normally “tips off” Summer Celebration. Mercer Island High School Girls and Boys Booster Clubs are taking the reigns in conjunction with the Mercer Island Parks and Recreation Department this year, as the tournament will be held in the Community Center at Mercerview’s gymnasium instead of at the Lid Park on Friday, July 13.
But the biggest changes will come next year as the Booster Clubs plan to expand the tournament by using the huge Spokane Hoopfest as a template.
“We decided to keep the same format as years past because there just wasn’t enough time to make the changes,” said Mercer Island Girls Basketball Booster Club representative Christa Lilly. “The city was going to drop the tournament all together since Summer Celebration is going to start on Saturday and not Friday this year.”
Hoopfest draws thousands of people and families each year to downtown Spokane, Wash., including many Island families.
The tournament has become a big part of the tradition that is Summer Celebration during the past decade. It has grown from four teams in 1999 to 27 teams last year. The man keeping the tradition alive was Bob Burmeister.
“It hasn’t been easy,” said Burmeister. “Maybe this is what it needs to survive.”
Burmeister, and the former head of the Mercer Island Parks and Recreation department Emery Billings, worked feverishly to get Island kids to come out and play in the tournament and keep the tradition alive.
“I thought we were a barometer of where the community was at,” said Burmeister, who was notified of the change by a third party.
One of the biggest years for the tournament came in 2005 when former Sonics’ great Jack Sikma, former University of Washington coach Rick Neuheisle and Debra Walker-Augurson, who was a part of the women’s 3-on-3 basketball world championship team were celebrity guests.
For the majority of its run under Burmeister and Billings, the games were played in the courts at the Lid Park to coincide with the Summer Celebration fireworks display.
“It was like a toaster oven a couple of years,” said Burmeister. “The tape (holding up signs) would melt to the wall.”
Two years ago disaster was averted when the tournament was moved to the Boys & Girls Club gymnasium thanks to rain, and marked the first time the tournament was held indoors.
“It has been wonderful and I thoroughly enjoyed working at it,” said Burmeister.
Lilly said the new organizers are working to fill six teams in each area and gender division for this year’s tournament and find volunteers to work as court monitors. The grade divisions are fourth through seventh, with third graders eligible to play in the fourth-grade division. Players from the Mercer Island High School basketball program will be on hand to help out. Lilly also hinted toward a possible celebrity at this year’s event.
“This is a great event and with what we have planned it belongs outside,” said Lilly.
And the plans are big. The Booster Clubs plan to find sponsors for back boards, expand the tournament to two days — Saturday and Sunday — and move it outdoors to the downtown streets of Mercer Island.
Anyone interested in playing or volunteering for the event this year can find information at www.migb.com or can call Lilly at 206-818-7622.