24th Gus Macker brings hundreds of athletes to Quincy
Saturday was the first day of Quincy's 24th annual Gus Macker tournament.
Hundreds of basketball players and fans converged in Washington Park for this three-on-three half-court competition.
But the story behind how it arrived in Quincy is truly unique.
When Scott McNeal held his first Gus Macker tournament in 1974, he never imagined it would grow into a huge success.
"We started in the driveway, we played for money. Eighteen kids put a dollar in a hat and the winning team got 18 dollars, McNeal said. "As my short stature tells you, I wasn't a legend in the gym. But in my own driveway, I thought I was a legend and I had a weird nickname, Gus Macker."
Since then, he's brought this tournament to many different cities.
"I do about 40 of them around the county. I started traveling in 87," McNeal said. "First 13 years in the parent's driveway and then it went on."
But one his favorite places to bring his tournament is Quincy.
"Quincy is a basketball hot bed, so they love the Macker," McNeal said.
It draws in a large number of local athletes and out of town players.
And it holds a special meaning to every athlete who sets foot on the court.
"We won it two years in a row and it's always really fun," Natalie Otten, a basketball player for the St. Louis Dream Killers said. "And it's just a lot of fun to get out here and play with all your friends."
"My older brothers and sisters have played here and this is actually our 19th year coming," Tanner Bencomo, another player for the Dream Killers said. My family, we've been in this for a long time. So I just wanted to play, just like everybody else."
But this year's Macker is a little bit different from past tournaments.
"Probably the biggest change you'll see at this event is the commitment by the Exchange Club to bring in officials, patched registered officials on all the courts," McNeal said.
Mike Rudd Sr. is a legendary Quincy basketball player who's been involved with this competition for years.
"I played the first 10 to 15 years and then I got too old and started reffing," Rudd said. "So, I've been a part of it ever since it's been in Quincy."
Rudd said it's a great way for kids to improve their playing skills.
"Main thing is good sportsmanship, work on your game, and at the end of the day have fun," Rudd said.
McNeal can't believe a small tournament he started so long ago has become a slam dunk in Quincy.
"One of my oldest tournaments around the country and I have a lot of pride in this event," McNeal said.
McNeal said 418 teams will compete in this weekend's tournament.