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West Side can't miss a Macker Tournament celebrates its 20th season

This year's Gus Macker not only marks the 20th anniversary of the three-on-three basketball tournament in Buffalo, it also marks a major milestone for a participant that not many other teams can claim.

Brad Young, Chris Pratt, Neil Trapper and Scott Ebert are all a part of the West Side Gunners, a team that's competed in every Macker in Buffalo.

"This is our 20th year," said Young, a medical handler. "We haven't missed a Gus Macker. We have been playing basketball in this tournament since the first year it started here."

Young played at Daemen College after never putting on a uniform for Lafayette in high school. In fact, he was discovered by a coach who recruited him after seeing him play on a playground. He was given a scholarship and played with Pratt for a year before dropping out of college.

During their 20-year stint in the Macker, the West Side Gunners have racked up two championships and many second-place finishes.

Team members claim the key to their success is the different style each of them contributes. While Young is the shooter and Pratt gets the boards, Trapper does the dirty work.

"I'll get the foul to make sure nobody hurts them," said Trapper, a warehouse manager. "I win if they win."

They won two of their three adult division games Saturday.

Their families have been very supportive of their interests, with their wives and children cheering them on from the sidelines at every game.

"Me and my wife have been married 20 years," Young said. "I've been playing here every year I've been married, and she's been right there next to me for every single game."

Barbara Pratt has never had a problem with heading downtown to cheer on her husband.

"I don't think I have missed one weekend," she said. "We like to see them play. This is the best weekend of the summer."

Though they are 20 years in and still competing, they have passed on the tradition to the next generation. Their children, who got their first Macker experiences from their strollers and mother's laps, have been competing in the local tournament for a couple of years themselves.

Pierce Young, a senior at Canisius High School, picked up the game watching his father.

"Just watching [my dad] play basketball up here all the time made me want to play one day, too," Pierce said.

"We love coming down here," said Chris Pratt, a general contractor. "We've been loving the game of basketball since we were about 5. We used to go watch the Buffalo Braves. I think this town would still support a basketball team. This is a good indication. There has to be 10,000 people down here. We've loved the game for so many years, we just keep coming."

However, no matter how huge of an event the Macker is, Barbara Pratt understands the ultimate goal is way beyond winning the championship.

"The event itself is an awesome event," she said. "But it's also for a great cause. The money goes to charities and we have to support that too."

e-mail: mslaughter@buffnews.com