The Gus Macker 3-on-3 basketball tournament has a new date and new location but the same old enthusiasm.
When Gus Macker owner Scott McNeal announced in April that the annual tournament would be skipping Buffalo for the first time in 24 years, Grand Island’s Corey McGowan immediately went to the phone to see if he could change that.
His calls were successful as the tournament will take place this weekend on Grand Island Boulevard, between Whitehaven and Baseline roads, on Grand Island. The two-day tournament runs Saturday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and concludes Sunday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. The championship games will be played in the Town Hall parking lot.
“I find there to be a need to draw more people to the Island so we can get more exposure for the business community,” McGowan said. “I think it’s an ideal location.”
There will be 282 teams and roughly 1,200 players this year on 24 courts. Last year there were 402 teams at Darien Lake and 693 teams in downtown Buffalo the year before.
“Macker, for the most part, is seen like a little family reunion,” said Bill Gorman, Gus Macker event coordinator.
The tournament is traditionally held in late June or July. Last year was the first year the Gus Macker was held at Darien Lake after previously being in downtown Buffalo for 22 years. The longevity of the tournament is a “pretty big testament to the Western New York community,” Gorman said.
The August date has led to decreased enrollment, as kids who would have been around to play in July are now going away to college and the high school kids begin fall sports.
But McGowan said he thought keeping it in Western New York was most important. As a Grand Island resident, he’s “proud to be able to showcase the community.”
The Gus Macker is about more than just basketball, though.
“One of the best things is that it raised thousands upon thousands of dollars for a lot of good charities,” Gorman said.
This year, the money will go to the Wellness Institute of Greater Buffalo and Youth Advantage, which create sports and afterschool programs for children.
McGowan is very happy with the business aspect of the tournament moving to Grand Island. The Gus Macker traditionally attracts thousands of people, which helps the local businesses surrounding the basketball courts.
Gorman expects the tournament to have a “carnival atmosphere.”
“Compare it a Grateful Dead concert atmosphere where a lot of people will enjoy their tournament and want to go to the next one,” Gorman said.
After initial disappointment over the tournament’s status in the spring, Western New Yorkers are relieved to have it back.
After all, it wouldn’t be a Buffalo summer without the Gus Macker.