Time Out: August 13, 2008

“I think we’ve found it. I can see basketballs in the air.”
Looking from a distance it looked like a carnival or circus, the sky peppered with multi-colored basketballs. Moving the car closer, the scene came more clearly into focus. A section of Main Street in Avoca had been blocked off and eight outdoor basketball courts stood in a single line. After a long journey a group of young basketball enthusiasts from Andes had arrived to participate in the Avoca Summer Classic.
We had no idea what to expect when we started our journey. Visiting my summer camp on Goodhue Lake in Addison earlier in the summer, I learned from the local newspaper that Avoca was the home of an annual three-on-three basketball tournament. Hmmmmm. Perhaps it might be fun to bring a team of five early high school boys to my camp for the weekend and try our hand at some basketball. Insanity.
Our day in Avoca was more than we could have ever expected. Masses of teams, guys and gals, assembled for some basketball fun. Teams filled brackets in six different age groups: 10-12, 13-14, 15-16, 17-18, 19-35, and 36 and up. The gazebo in a small town square was the tournament headquarters where participants received a shirt and each captain pulled a marked Popsicle stick from a can to determine their team’s starting point on the brackets. Our team got a laugh when Andes, as in Andes Central School, was represented as Andy’s, as in a team sponsored by a guy named Andy. Booths selling foods of every kind and carnival-like trinkets lined the park. Rock music serenaded from large speakers positioned at strategic points, and a local radio station was broadcasting live in front of a popular eatery.
The Avoca Tournament is the brainchild of Bill Collmer, a local guy and graduate of Avoca Central School. Eight years ago, Bill put together the first tournament as a tribute to Frankie Rundell, a local basketball legend who graduated from Avoca in 1988 and played on the fabled 1987-88 Avoca squad that reached the Final Four of the state championship tournament in Glens Falls. Tragically, Rundell was killed in a car accident in December 2001, and trying to ease the pain, his friends are letting his memory live through the annual summer classic. Proceeds of the tournament are used to help local students follow their dreams through sports at both the youth- and high-school level. A scholarship program for graduating seniors has also been established.
For the gang from Andes, the tournament was terrific. Yes, they did learn a bit about themselves on the basketball court, going 2-2, and improving their performance in every game. They surprised themselves by going to the wire every time they stepped on the court and came to appreciate that only one team in their division was truly head and shoulders better than they were.
But, we learned more about a small community coming together to create an event that has meaning to many people. The competition on the court was fierce but the atmosphere was friendly and supportive with almost everyone having a great time. By the end of the weekend, a total tiredness had crept in and taken hold of my being, but I still had enough energy left to smile and laugh when the kids asked if next year we could do this again.