ITHACA, N.Y.—One of the most anticipated summer sporting events in Ithaca is back again, with organizers hoping this is the Gus Macker 3-on-3 Basketball Tournament’s strongest year since the COVID-19 pandemic derailed it from previous heights.
The tournament started in Ithaca thanks in part to Rahmel Mack, who coached an AAU girls team in a Gus Macker tournament in Olean, N.Y. He became enamored with the tournament, as did his basketball-loving sons, and later connected with Ithaca High School Athletic Director Samantha Little about bringing a tournament to Ithaca.
Soon enough, Mack said he was at a meeting with Little, fellow GIAC worker Travis Brooks and Gus Macker representatives including Macker himself.
From there, the tournament has become a staple of summer sports programming in Ithaca, drawing hundreds of teams and more spectators to the field at 301 West Court Street across from the GIAC building, even in the August heat. This year’s tournament is being held Aug. 5 and 6, with a sign-up deadline of July 17 (sign-ups and more information can be found here).
“Playing 3 on 3, with your friends, having fun competing with even the smallest possibility to win that Macker man is just a vibe,” Mack said. It’s a blend of competitiveness and nostalgia for Mack that draws him back. “Also, for us older players, it’s another chance to take part in a tournament, see our team names on a bracket, and reconnect playing the game that brought some of us together.”
Then the competitiveness shows.
“It’s also nice to show the youngins that we still have some game,” he added.
The tournament this year is focused on expectations, Mack said.
Mack said he expects higher participation this year, considering the strength of the GIAC Adult League’s return and an impressive turnout for the Ithaca Youth Bureau’s youth winter league.
“After a tough couple of years with COVID, I feel like the energy for basketball, and all sports, has been revived,” Mack said.
This year’s tournament is aiming for 160-180 teams participating, though Mack said ideally the tournament would like to grow to 220-240 teams per year, which would require a larger location.
As for additional elements this year, Mack said he hopes to have a kick-off tournament held Friday night which would include first responders, with teams of firefighters, police officers, EMS workers, etc. competing in a bracket.
Sponsors for the event this year include Wegmans, GIAC, Visum Development, Tompkins County Tourism, the Rashad Richardson Basketball League, Cayuga Health System, Elmore Enterprises and the United Way.