Gus Macker Basketball coming to downtown Big Rapids in May

Gus Macker Basketball will come to Cardinal Country on May 19-20. (Courtesy photo)

BIG RAPIDS — It’s the 45th season of Gus Macker 3-on-3 Basketball, and the long-time outdoor hoops festival will be making a stop in Big Rapids.

Macker founder Scott McNeal, who invented the tournament, along with his brother, Mitch, in their family’s Lowell driveway in 1974, announced the tournament will be coming to downtown Big Rapids on Saturday and Sunday, May 19-20.

On the current Macker schedule, it’s slated to be the fourth overall event of 2018 and the second one in Michigan. An event is also set for April 28-29 in Mount Pleasant.

There are currently 33 Macker nationwide events on the 2018 calendar. The game is open to males and females, from age 7 to 70-plus regardless of experience The event originated in Lowell and later moved to Belding where Macker headquarters are located.

But the Original 3-on-3 tournament started in 1987. There have been 1,421 sanctioned Macker tournaments presented for over 670,800 teams or almost 2.7 million players and played before more than 27.5 million spectators. Teams received at least three scheduled games each tournament. It’s a double-elimination tournament but there’s also a consolation bracket for teams that lose their first two games.

“We are partnering with a Big Rapids basketball group,” McNeal said. “Kent Ingles and his daughter, Jessica Haist (current Big Rapids boys and girls varsity coaches) are the two main ones involved. The athletic director (Dawn Thompson) is involved. I know it’s going to benefit some of the different organizations. They’ll have various organizations at the school involved in setting up the tournament and taking it down.

“We’ve been working with them a long time. It came back to me last fall when they brought up the possibility. We were trying to see if they were going to wait a year and what site they’re shooting for.”

The event will be on Michigan Avenue and the southern most boundary is the intersection with Maple Street. It will go north a few blocks, with the middle school set to serve as tournament headquarters.

“It goes from the M-20 light toward the middle school,” McNeal said. “There’s a point at which before you get to the middle school the street drops on an angle (from the Elks building to the roller rink building). It’s too sloped to play on. We’re trying to figure out when we get to the nitty-gritty of what to do about it.

“Jessica and Kent want to include the middle school as a hub, registration center.”

It’s an early season Macker. Many are in July and August.

“We have to gun it to get it going,” McNeal said. “We’re very excited about it. It’s in an area we think will draw well. Jessica’s kids and Kent’s grandkids have been playing in it and they’re big followers of our event. They’re very enthusiastic about getting this in Big Rapids and we’re very excited to be in that market. We feel there’s a lot of Macker players between the Ludington and Grand Rapids area that would be excited.”

McNeal said there was an indoor Macker event at Ferris in the 1990s.

“We did more indoor stuff in the 1990s than we do currently,” McNeal said. “I think most of them were indoor with the Ferris State coaching staff.”

The team entry fee is $144. The main-deadline is on April 27 and the online deadline is on April 30. Teams can register by going to www.macker.com.

“We’re excited about it coming,” McNeal said.

So is Haist, who is a Greenville native, close to Belding, where the tournament was especially popular in the late 1980s and early to mid 1990s when the Belding event drew anywhere from 1,000 to 5,000 teams each year.

“Big Rapids Basketball is bringing Macker to town but we are using other groups to pull off the weekend,” Haist said. “I got involved through basketball fans who grew up playing in Gus Mackers and wanted to offer the same fun experience for our community.

“After several conversations with Scott McNeal we decided BR would be a great location. I think Macker thought 150 teams would be a good goal for the first year.”

Haist said the City has agreed to close Michigan Ave. in the downtown area being used in the event for that weekend.

Proceeds for the tournament will go toward various programs and boosters, primarily affiliated with the school.

“We are excited to bring Gus Macker Basketball, here,” Haist said. “It will bring lots of excitement and energy to BR. If anyone wants to help or get involved or sponsor a court they can email me jhaist@brps.org.”

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Posted by John Raffel

John is a sports reporter with the Pioneer as well as the Herald Review and The Lake County Star. He also coordinates the weekly Pioneer sports outdoors page. He can be reached at (231) 592-8356 or by email at jraffel@pioneergroup.com.

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