Baltimore's inaugural Diet Pepsi/Farm Fresh Hoop-It-Up three-on-three basketball tournament this weekend won't be just fun and games -- at least for the Top Gun division. For the teams in that division, it's serious business.
Players of various ages, sizes and skills will play at The Brokerage tomorrow and Sunday. It may not be as thrilling as watching the National Collegiate Athletic Association Final Four or the National Basketball Association finals, but with 31 courts being set up for the 311 teams that will compete in 26 divisions, it might not be a bad way to spend another humid day.
Hoop-It-Up, which was organized at Notre Dame 19 years ago with 53 teams taking part, benefits a local charity. And the games won't stop here. The tournament rolls through 35 cities and attracts more than a million players each year. It will be in Washington in mid-September.
The Top Gun division will feature players who have played competitively in college or semi-pro leagues, and the champion will advance to the nationals Oct. 18-20 in Austin, Texas.
Channel 45 will telecast the finals of the top men's and women's divisions, along with the final of the Older than Dirt division -- players over 40 -- Sunday from noon to 1:30 p.m.
"We put a real tough team together that should do pretty good," said Rick Moreland, a former University of Baltimore County player who is now the Washington Bullets' public relations director. "We're going after it."
Joining the 6-foot-7 Moreland on the Knudsen and Son Builders team are 6-8 George Mason University alumnus Rob Nieberlein, 6-2 James Madison graduate Jeff Cross and 5-10 Patrick McKindles, who played at Catonsville Community College seven years ago.
Though he wouldn't mind being the hero, McKindles is happy just to be getting a chance to work off a little rust. "We'd definitely like to be competitive, but its nice to get out and play ball regardless of the situation," he said. "The other guys are the big guns. I'll just be a role player and contribute when I can."
Attention is likely to focus on the Baltimore Racquet and Fitness Club team, which has the tallest player in the tournament, 6-10 Jim Frantz, and 6-9 Kenny Reynolds, both former UMBC players. The team's chances of winning the Top Gun division are enhanced by the addition of 6-1 Larry Simmons, UMBC's all-time leading scorer.
Top Gun Division Division I and II with players who've played either in college or semi-pro leagues. The champions qualify for the nationals Oct. 18-20 in Austin, Texas, which NBC will televise live.
and Recreational divisions These divisions consist of players who played in high school and other competitive leagues.
Couch Potato Division Includes players who might have played high school ball but weren't that good. "They just come out to try and work off some rust and have fun," said Hoop-It-Up President Terry Murphy.
Older Than Dirt Division For players older than 40 who feel they haven't lost their touch.