Basketball not just for gym rats this weekend

With a little cooperation from the weather, basketball will again turn into an outdoor sport for more than 200 players of both genders and a wide variety of ages in Negaunee this weekend.

The inaugural 4 on 4 Roundball Classic takes place at Miner’s Park along U.S. 41 in the Marquette County community with both coaches and players from the men’s basketball team at Northern Michigan University helping guide the effort.

More than 40 teams are signed up in eight divisions. Most are for youths, though there is an Open Division for adults on the men’s side.

In case of rain, the event will move to Negaunee Middle School, located within a block of Teal Lake Avenue just before you get to downtown from the highway, with the gym entrance I’m told facing Pioneer Avenue.

New-as-of-last-year NMU head men’s coach Bill Sall was looking for ways to get involved in the community and also raise funds for the program, and assistant coach Bill Hill knew of just the thing, since he’s been involved with outdoor basketball as a player and organizer since his high school days in the 1990s.

“I played it when I was in high school and college, then when I worked for the city of Negaunee, I helped run it, I played in it and I refereed it,” he said.

The Gus Macker craze reached this area in the mid-1990s, and other outdoor events followed, though Hill said there hasn’t been a tourney like this around here since 2006.

Hill says with a fairly breakneck schedule, more than 40 teams should be able to complete play on two courts starting at 8:30 on Saturday morning and running into the evening – before sundown. The tourney will then start back up around 9 Sunday morning and get things completed by 4:30 or 5 p.m.

Hill, who said he expects to be the point man for all questions as the tourney unwinds, wanted me to remind all curious spectators that there’s no admission, but you should bring chairs or blankets since there aren’t any bleachers on site.

Concessions will be, though, and NMU-related apparel will also be on sale.

And my reminder to all of you – slather on the sunscreen, but have the coats and sweatpants ready because you never know what the spring of 2014 will bring.

Here’s a few other topics I did a little follow-up on this week:

  • The NMU men’s team and several other groups are among those selling spectator tickets for the Symetra Tour women’s pro golf stop at the Sweetgrass Golf Club in Harris from June 27-29.

I understand this to be a fundraising venture for these groups, which in a quick scan include “Marquette High School Mens Basketball.” I’ll take that as the boys team at Marquette Senior High School. The Redette girls are also on the list, as is the Northern Michigan Drive basketball team.

They’re charging $10, which the golf club’s website says is good for all three days of play.

  • Ishpeming High School track and field coach Scott Syrjala made a point of lauding his seniors for leading the Hematites to the boys MHSAA Division 2 championship at the Upper Peninsula Finals on Saturday.

But he didn’t want to slight the rest of his team, saying plenty of underclassmen made their 39-point victory possible in the sweltering heat in Kingsford.

By my count, 14 different boys scored points during the meet. Some were like juniors Nate Meyer and Tommy Potter, both of whom scored in four events and between them ran on each of Ishpeming’s three winning relays.

Then there were competitors like Swedish exchange student Fredrick Sidh, who earned a couple points for his fifth-place finish in the pole vault, or freshman Isaac Olson, who ran a leg on the Hematites’ third-place 400 relay unit.

Maybe their contributions seem less insignificant, but they were just as important to Syrjala as he had mapped out where he thought points would come from if everyone performed where they had earlier in the season.

And he was left five points short of Manistique in that case.

“They’re just such good kids,” Syrjala told me late Saturday afternoon when it became apparent his prediction would be off by more than three dozen points.

  • Staying on the track, I’ve found out in the time since I authored a story on Monday that some of the old records from the U.P. Finals actually were converted from yards to meters.

I was under the impression they had to retire older records when the conversion to metric distances occurred, but I should’ve known better, as long-time coaches like Dale Phillips of Marquette remember it taking place around the late 1970s or early 1980s.

“I remember it being around that time because the Carter administration made the big push to go metric,” Phillips said.

I should’ve known that, too, as a 1980 high school graduate. I remember the big push for it when I was in high school, and then the pushback against it. The tug-of-war ended in the stalemate we have today where we more or less interchange between the two systems.

What all of this means, I think, is that Marquette sophomore Lindsey Rudden’s 4:55.28 clocking in the 1,600-meter run makes her the first girl at the U.P. Finals to break five minutes at that distance – including mile-run conversions to metric – going back as far as records have been kept.

But let me give her a little incentive to drop her time further. The MHSAA Championships program lists Lower Peninsula Finals records in the event as fast as 4:39.23, and a national record of 4:33.82.

With some nice weather at the finals for the next two years, like maybe a seasonal 65 degrees, who knows how low Lindsey can go?

  • Those who know me know I can’t let a column go without touching on my big winter sport, bowling.

Kirk Guckenberg, who might be picking up his Ishpeming High diploma right around the time you’re reading this, informed me that an “exhibition” 300 he rolled actually has been accepted for sanctioning by the U.S. Bowling Congress.

That means he’s taken over as the first bowler to ever shoot a sanctioned 300 at Red Rock Lanes in Ishpeming, the former Country Lanes that changed name and ownership officially on Jan. 1.

Guckenberg had been a pacer during the Friday Nite Mixed League on March 14, but under revamped rules of past several years, that can count for honor score consideration.

It makes sense to me. He was participating under the exact same conditions everyone else in the league was, except for the score not counting for a team.

Trust me, when you’re shooting for 300, it’s actually nice to have a team game hanging in the balance to divert some of your attention from what could be a once-in-a-lifetime feat.