SportsEvents Magazine

JAN 2018

SportsEvents is edited for those who plan tournaments or other sports events.

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Page 23 of 75

January 2018 24 SPECIAL FEATURE: Awards & Recognition Issue Oregon's Hoopla 3x3 street basketball tourna- ment is in its 20th year and has become the second largest 3x3 basketball tournament in the country, according to Hoopla Association director Jason Unruh. "The basketball tournament is like nothing else," said the former high school basketball coach. "It's held on the streets of Salem in front of the Oregon State Capitol building. It's just a beautiful setting. The streets are just wide enough and flat enough and the area around the Capitol is a park. I don't think there is any better place in the whole United States to have a street tournament like this." Unruh said the downtown setting with the capitol as a backdrop elevates the week-long event into something special for participants and the community, turning a basketball game into a reunion. As a kid, Unruh said he and his brother played high school basketball in Salem and a friend, Jim Kniffin approached Unruh's father, Carroll about organizing a basketball tourna- ment in 1998. Kniffin wanted the tournament to be patterned after a similar event held each year in Spokane, Wash. The Unruh family also operated a company called the Hoop in Salem where the community came to play basketball, so calling on the Unruh family to coordinate the tournament was a logical step. "In 1999, we started with 151 teams and probably 600 players. This past year we had close to 4,000 participants and 955 teams. It's been growing every year. Back then we didn't really know what we were doing—well, we knew what we were doing—but not on that scale. There was a learning curve and we've had our ups and downs over the past 20 years, but 20 years later we are going strong thanks to the hard work from our core crew of people. Our core crew is not arrogant. We don't ever think we did things perfect. The first thing we do when the tournament is over is talk about next year and how we can make improvements. We aren't always 100 percent right, but everyone from the volunteers to sponsors, players, and refs are all about making the event better for the future. People appreciate that. We work hard to put on the best event we possibly can." Unruh, a self-proclaimed Disney and Masters Golf fanatic said the Hoopla Association strives to provide the same level of customer service by paying attention to the details. He said trying to mimic Disney's customer service and the experience patrons of The Masters receive starts with training and commitment from all involved including volunteers, players, spon- sors and spectators equally. The all-ages basketball tournament for boys, girls and adults attracts all skill levels from recreational players to elite-level athletes. "It's really unique to have all ages and all levels of skill and it's very competitive with many rival- ries developing over the years," Unruh said. Each team may have up to four players with teams competing in 3x3 games with scoring up to 35 points or a maximum of 25 minutes per game. Saturday features pool play with the top two teams in each pool advancing to a single elimination championships bracket and the bottom two teams participating on Sunday in a single elimination consolation bracket. "The intensity ratchets up on Sunday for the championships and in the end, we have a cool ceremony that is consistent with what you would see at the Olympics with gold and silver medals. Winners also get t-shirts and the win- ners' podium has the Capitol as the backdrop for a really impressive picture," Unruh said. "We have about 60 to 70 teams in some divisions and the last one standing is the champion. It means a lot to the teams. People say it is an incredible feeling to make it all the way to the end and be the last one standing." In all, an estimated 40,000 to 45,000 people attend the annual event in downtown Salem each August, filling the downtown streets to watch a game or sit in the shade to wait their turn to play. Unruh said many individuals who competed years ago continue to compete today in older age divisions. "My father presented the medals for many years and he was giving a medal to the champion of the women's division who had played in the tournament as a girl. She had tears in her eyes as he hung the medal around her neck. She said, 'you put a medal on me when I was a little girl and I've waited 10 years to get another one.' It's that kind of feeling about this tournament that makes me tear up a little and it says a lot about the experience. Peo- ple feel like this is the best event in our commu- nity and it brings so many people downtown. It's sort of like a community reunion." The community experience is also enhanced since the event is free for spectators and people are free to walk from court to court to watch the games. While the Hoopla Tournament takes place on Saturday and Sunday, preparations and activities begin Monday prior to the weekend event when streets around the Capitol building are closed for setup. "We set everything up all day Tuesday and we do a 2x2 adult men's kickoff party on Jason Unruh Tournament Director Hoopla Association 3x3 Basketball Tournament

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