Sports provide more than just a competitive outlet; they help bring communities together, establish traditions and raise money for the schools.
The 48th annual Charter Communications Negaunee Invitational Basketball Tournament has been a staple in the area for years and this weekend’s action in Class B gives fans a chance to see players who played high school and college basketball throughout the Upper Peninsula.
“There’s a lot of interest when it’s local players and players from around Marquette County and the Upper Peninsula because people don’t get to see them play anymore and they remember how good they were,” tournament director John Basolo said. “We get a cross section from all the best players in the Upper Peninsula.”
One of those players is Bill Hill, who was part of Negaunee High School’s 2000 state championship team and went on to play at NMU from 2000-04. Hill said the support the team received in the championship run is a reflection of basketball’s importance to the community.
“It was just unbelievable the amount of people who were left in this town,” Hill said. “Everybody left to go down there and watch that, and I think the NIT keeps that together. It brings back memories for people that you make a lot of connections with … basketball in Negaunee is huge.”
Hill is playing in his eighth NIT this year and his team, Stonehouse Window and Door from Ishpeming, is looking to repeat after capturing the 2011 Class B title.
The team also features a pair of Marquette High School standouts, Tim Strom and Sean Geary, who both went on to play for Michigan Tech and includes former NMU players Ryan Riechel, Tyler Kazmierkoski and Jake Suardini.
Geary, who still frequently plays with Strom, said the tournament provides a chance to team up with athletes from different schools and play against others from the area.
“It’s a great opportunity,” Geary said. “It’s fun to see some of the guys we actually grew up playing against and now we’re a little bit older but everyone seems to come back to the NIT and play. It’s a great competition and a quality weekend.”
Sean’s father Tim Geary was the head coach of the NMU women’s basketball team for 17 seasons, in which he compiled a 370-123 record and took the Wildcats to NCAA Women’s Tournament Elite Eight in 1995 and 1998.
The action kicks off at 3:15 p.m. Friday, April 13 with Northwoods Apartments from Marquette taking on P.O.M. from Houghton. Following that game at 4:30 p.m., Juice Promotions of Carney faces McNeils Oilers from Crystal Falls.
Stonehouse Window and Door will begin their title defense at 7:00 p.m. with a game against Spindler Financial of Escanaba.
The final game of the night at 8:15 p.m. features a team new to Class B, Detroit II from Detroit and Superior Ink and Toner of Houghton, which features a lineup of mostly Milwaukee players.
The action continues all weekend and it concludes with the championship game at 8 p.m. Sunday April, 15. The 45 & Older class is also hosted this weekend. All games are played at Lakeview Memorial Gymnasium in Negaunee.
“They’re a lot of people that put in a lot of effort to make this go on,” Hill said. “It’s unbelievable the people in the community. It’s pretty amazing that everybody volunteers this effort and they donate a ton of money back to the schools, and it’s just a great thing.
Tickets are $3 at the door. Clean-up crews are needed after the games are over and free admission for the day can be arranged for those interested in helping with cleaning efforts. For more information, call John Basolo at (906) 458-6419 or e-mail [email protected]
–– NIT press release