HERMANSVILLE - The 75th Annual Gold Medal Basketball Tournament is upon us and remarkably the yearly gathering of the best amateur basketball talent from miles around, is still going strong.
"We have 85 teams registered and interest is as high as ever. I have no more time slots available and I couldn't take more teams if I wanted to, but I'm still getting calls from teams that forgot about the deadline," said tournament director Ray Bray. "I have 4-5 teams on a waiting list, in case someone can't make it."
The tournament is set to kick off Thursday night at 7 p.m. EDT and run through March 24. Games will be featured across nine divisions including A, B, C, D, E, EE, Rec, Junior High and Women's. This year marks the first time the tournament will host junior high teams, coinciding with the theme of "Past, Present and Future of Gold Medal."
"It's a big thing for these kids and they're pumped up," said Bray. "We have a couple teams from Norway, North Central has a team and Carney has one. It's going to be a good memory for them."
The tournament will open with a Class EE game followed by the start of junior high play.
Class A is the height of tournament competition, featuring teams that are stocked with star college and former college talent. Class D, for example features teams described by Bray as "One real good player surrounding themselves with 3-4 average players."
Also this season, teams in the women's division have returned in full force.
"We have eight teams in the women's division, a full week of play with the quarterfinals being held on the last Saturday of the tournament and the semifinals and finals on Sunday," said Bray. "As college players entered the tournament we would get less and less women's teams, because we'd have a couple loaded college teams come along and pummel everyone. So this year, we made a new rule - no more than two college players to a team. That way it's more equal. The teams are excited. There's not a whole lot of tournaments out there for them."
Bray hopes attendance will increase this year as last year's warm weather actually may have served as a deterrent.
"Last year, we didn't have great attendance but it was also 65-70 degrees outside," he said. "That probably won't be the case this year, so this is a good place to spend the evenings and weekend."
Hermansville will be hopping this weekend as the slate of games begins at 10 a.m. EDT on Saturday and will run until about 11 p.m. On Sunday, the tournament will run from 11 a.m. - 11 p.m.