Tournament grows up in a hurry
Several years ago, Bonner Springs High School athletic director Garold Baker had a vision for a winter basketball tournament so grand in stature and well respected among its competitors that it would attract some of the area's toughest teams year in and year out.
Baker's vision included first-class facilities, top-notch trophies and and an overall experience that would send teams, coaches and fans away talking about Bonner Springs for a long time.
The tournament, once only a dream, became a reality two years ago, and as it sets to enter its third season, many agree that the Bonner Springs Metro Prep Tipoff Classic is one of the finest tournaments around.
During its three years of existence, the Bonner Springs Metro Prep Tipoff Classic has seen its fair share of changes. But most of those changes have come behind the scenes with tourney officials tweaking the way the gyms were organized and flip-flopping times so that schools with both boys and girls teams in the tournament could watch each other play.
Another change will come this year when the tournament tips off Thursday, Dec. 7 and wraps up on Saturday, Dec. 9. Instead of banishing the losers of the first-round games to the high school gym, Baker has worked out a way to allow every team to play at the YMCA at least once. All girls games on Thursday and boys games on Friday will be at the Y. After that, the teams that continue to advance will play their third and final games in the school's main gymnasium.
"I think we're really going to like that," said Baker, who got the idea from one of the coaches in the tournament. "That's what it takes, listening to people and trying new ideas. I'm no Einstein at this. I'm always looking for ways to make this thing better."
Next year, Baker believes he will have accomplished exactly that, as the tournament will feature eight schools that will enter both their boys and girls teams into the tourney.
"That's a done deal for next year," Baker said. "And we're really excited about it. I think the biggest advantage to that is that the communities can come over to support both teams. I think it's really going to increase our crowds. And, quite honestly, I'd love to have those same eight teams stay in this tournament until I retire."