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Gus Macker 3-on-3 tournament returning to Mercer County in July

Jan. 26—HERMITAGE — As the nationwide Gus Macker 3-on-3 basketball tournament circuit turns 50 this year, Buhl Park will be hosting the tournament's local return this summer.

Originally started by Scott McNeal — also known by his nickname, "Gus Macker" — in 1974 in Lowell, Mich., the basketball tournament started in McNeal's driveway before becoming an official event in 1987.

Gus Macker 3-on-3 basketball tournaments have since been played across the country, including some past tournaments in Mercer County.

Although there haven't been any Gus Macker tournaments held locally since the 1990s, this year's tournament will be held from July 26 through July 28 at Buhl Park, and will be open to players aged 6 to 100, according to a press release.

Markee Juranovich, Buhl Park director of sports and recreation, said the tournament was first brought to Mercer County by the local Frankovich family.

Over the years, the event was held at a few different locations including downtown Sharon and the Shenango Valley Mall parking lot.

"I remember me and my friends playing in it back when I was in third grade," Juranovich said of the tournament.

Although the tournament eventually subsided in Mercer County, Juranovich said she and her friend Rhonda Staunch were recently discussing their fond memories of the tournament and discovered Gus Macker was a national institution, not simply a local event.

Juranovich pitched bringing the tournament back to Mercer County to Buhl Park Executive Director Tom Roskos, who was supportive of the idea.

Around that time, a fellow classmate of Juranovich, Kelsey Gavin, happened to post on Facebook about her desire for the Gus Macker tournament to return.

Juranovich reached out to Gavin about park officials' plans to host the tournament, and Gavin was able to connect Juranovich with McNeal himself.

"For a national organization, it's very mom and pop," Juranovich said.

"When Kelsey sent Scott an email, he was very excited because he remembered the Frankovichs and he remembered what a great time it had been in Mercer County, so he instantly wanted to have a Zoom call to talk about bringing it back here."

In order to host the tournament, Juranovich said organizers must attend a Gus Macker conference in Grand Rapids, Mich., to go over the necessary requirements and information.

A group of representatives from Buhl Park were able to attend the conference last November, where the different groups enjoyed icebreaker games to introduce themselves, while Gus Macker officials went over information, marketing strategies, a new logo, and other topics.

"It was really cool because the conference was also kind of a reunion for people from all over the country. You would see people from New Mexico sitting and talking with people from New York," Juranovich said. "And the Frankovichs were in the Gus Macker Hall of Fame, which was cool."

The park's organizing committee, which has been at work since August, includes local basketball fans Juranovich, Roskos, Rhonda Staunch, Claire Staunch, Gavin, Louis Brown, John Heutsche, Neil Hosick, and Katie Parr, the release states.

Registration for the event is underway. It costs $160 per team, with four people required for each team.

Gus Macker's registration system automatically separates teams based on their age, height and experience, Juranovich said.

Aside from the 3-on-3 basketball games, the tournament at Buhl Park will also feature other attractions, including a variety of food trucks, inflatable obstacle courses, face-painting, and more, the release states.

"It's going to be like a block party for the people who aren't playing. Our goal is 150 teams, which would be about 600 players, but usually there's about 5,000 to 7,000 people who come to these tournaments," Juranovich said.

When the tournament kicks off at 4 p.m. Friday, July 26, the evening will consist of player check-ins and some more lighthearted games, including a slam-dunk contest and a three-point shooting contest, Juranovich said.

On Saturday, July 27, the tournament will begin at 8:30 a.m. and wrap up around 6 p.m., allowing visitors to enjoy the WaterFire festival in downtown Sharon, which will be held that same weekend, Juranovich said.

On Sunday, July 28, the tournament will begin at 8:30 a.m. and is expected to finish around 3 or 4 p.m.

Each team is guaranteed three games, with about 20 courts planned. There will also be two sport courts, including the dream court and the top men's division court, Juranovich said.

Championship sponsors for the tournament are the City of Hermitage and VisitMercerCountyPA, the county tourism agency.

Officials are still searching for court sponsors, who will have one of the 20 courts named in their honor. There are 19 opportunities left, with Daffin's Candies already sponsoring one court, Juranovich said.

For information on sponsoring opportunities, food truck spots and further updates, visit "Gus Macker at Buhl Park" on Facebook.

Like David L. Dye on Facebook or email him at ddye@sharonherald.com.