SW Jamboree celebrates 30 entertaining yearsThis weekend, Mott’s the spot for basketball.
By: Dustin Monke, The Dickinson Press
This weekend, Mott’s the spot for basketball.
The Regent Lions Club’s 30th annual Southwest Jamboree begins tonight at the Mott National Guard Armory and continues Friday and Sunday.
For 30 years, the Southwest Jamboree has been the area’s version of NBA All-Star Weekend.
Boys and girls teams made up of players from different schools play games that often end up being high-scoring. On Sunday, there’s a 3-point contest — what organizers say is the most popular part of the weekend — and a time for seniors to be recognized.
There was even a dunk contest for a short time in the early 90s. That was scrubbed after someone shattered a backboard.
“I think it’s an awesome atmosphere when you go down there,” said Heart River head coach Greg Pruitt, who played in the Jamboree when he attended Elgin High School and said he always fell just short of winning in the 3-point contest. “You compete against these kids all year long and all of sudden you get to be teammates with them.”
For years, the Jamboree was held at Regent High School’s gymnasium. Now, with the former school under construction and being renovated as part of a hotel project, the tournament has moved to Mott.
Longtime Regent coach Curt Honeyman said the Jamboree began in 1982 as an invitation-only tournament featuring four teams made up of the best boys basketball players from four area districts. They would play each other and then face one of four amateur teams.
A few years later, it shifted to a high school boys tournament and stayed that way until about 10 years ago, when a girls tournament was added on a separate weekend.
Now, the tournaments runs the same weekend. The girls play beginning 4:30 p.m. today. The boys play at 4:30 p.m. Friday and they all play Sunday afternoon.
Despite declining enrollment of area Class B schools, the Jamborees numbers are still good. At its peak, Honeyman said the tournament had 104 boys players on 16 teams and had players come from other parts of the state.
This year, there are more than 50 boys and 50 girls signed up.
“It seems like we’re maintaining or sustaining our popularity with the kids,” said Bill Gion, one of the Jamboree’s organizers “That’s kind of what it’s all about.”
Mostly, the tournament emphasizes the fun side of the sport.
There are no coaches, players make their own substitutions and — like an All-Star event — there’s always a few highlight-reel plays or a player who can’t miss from 3-point range.
“They still compete though,” Gion said. “They play hard.”
Honeyman said the tournament has also proven that even teams loaded with talent can fall to an underdog.
“The team that played together the best was the one that usually outdid the rest of the field,” Honeyman said. “It would seem like some of them teams maybe had a few more stars, but a lot of times they didn’t end up winning because they were going against a team where all five were working together as a team and those five were the ones that would win.”
Jason Horner, now the Mandan boys basketball coach, attended Bismarck Century High School but grew up in New England. He played in only the 1993 Jamboree and was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player.
Looking back, Horner said the tournament offered him something he often thought about — playing with and against his former classmates and childhood friends — and nearly 20 years later, he still remembers the Jamboree.
“Just getting to see them again, and playing against and being teamed up with some guys,” Horner said. “For me, it was just a great weekend.”
Monke is the sports editor of The Dickinson Press. He can be reached at email@example.com. Read his blog at http://monke.areavoices.com and follow him on Twitter at monkebusiness.