Gus Macker’s 3-on-3 tournament came to Norwich for the first time in 1996, and it could not have come at a better time. Looking back, it seems like such a no-brainer.
Then-Norwich mayor Joseph Biviano oversaw the brainstorming process to bring a large community event to summer. Norwich YMCA employee Michelle Gleason brought the idea of a basketball tournament to her superiors at the YMCA, and they grabbed the ball (pardon the pun) and dribbled it over to our city’s leaders. The idea was proposed in the winter months, contract negotiations began with Scott McNeal’s “Gus Macker 3-on-3 Tournament,” and Norwich signed the first of its three-year contracts with the organization.
The late Tom Schwan, a longtime correspondent for The Evening Sun, phoned me in January of ‘96 to discuss the publicity of the tournament. He was excited, and he should have been. Schwan was front and center covering back-to-back basketball state championships at Norwich, and the basketball programs – boys and girls have thrived for more than 15 years at Norwich with few setbacks. I had little doubt a street basketball tournament would be met with nothing less than full acceptance. And I was right.
Other than the first year in which just over 200 teams participated and rain swept away most of the opening day, the tournament has been a boon to Norwich. I chalk up the opening year as the beginning of a learning curve and some hesitancy due to the unknown quantity of 3-on-3 basketball. That reticence quickly dissipated, and participation had to eventually be capped after an explosion of entries in the fourth year.
*Patrick Newell’s full column on the Gus Macker Tournament will appear in the Saturday, July 12 edition of The Evening Sun.