Cars are out, courts in for slam-jam weekend

Mondawmin Mall is host to NBA Hoop-It-Up tourney


August 23, 2002|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,SUN STAFF

At 9 a.m. yesterday, the task of turning parts of a West Baltimore mall's parking lot into a basketball theme park began in earnest.

Outside Mondawmin Mall, basketball courts were being lined, merchandise and sponsor tents erected and details finalized, all for the arrival of the world's largest street basketball tournament.

This weekend, about 2,000 males and females of varying skill levels will take to the blacktop as the NBA Hoop-It-Up tour makes its annual stop in Baltimore.

Event organizers expect to turn 200,000 square feet of parking area into about 60 courts by the time the three-on-three, half-court tournament begins at 9 a.m. tomorrow, with games continuing until about 4 p.m.

Sunday's schedule will feature continuous action from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

"Basically, the action is non-stop," said event director Bill Kane. "There's basketball going on everywhere, so it's crazy, but it's organized."

There are still some openings for teams in the tournament, on a first-come, first-served basis. Registration will take place today from 2 to 7 p.m. at the Foot Locker store in the mall. The fee is $120 per team ($140 to compete at the Top Gun level).

Spectators can watch the weekend tournament and partake in its special events for free.

The Hoop-It-Up tour, which stops in 48 cities annually, has come to Baltimore for 12 years. The previous five tournaments were held at Camden Yards. Kane said scheduling conflicts with the Orioles and Ravens forced a change.

Compared to tournament fields here in the past, this one will be smaller, but there will still be no shortage of basketball to watch.

In each game, the winner will be the first team to 16, or whichever team is ahead when a 30-minute time limit has elapsed. Each team will be placed in a division based on age, height and playing ability.

To enter the Top Gun division, participants must have college playing experience.

"It's very competitive," said Washington resident Ronald Yelverton, 36, who is captain of Select, a team entered in the Top Gun Division. "In order to play in Top Gun, you have to have your I's dotted and your T's crossed. You have to bring your A game or you're going to be going home early."

The winning teams in the men's and women's brackets on Sunday get trophies, but more importantly, move on to the regional competition Sept. 7-8 in Orlando, Fla.

The Top Gun men's and women's finals are scheduled for about 2:30 p.m. on Sunday. Kane, however, said the weekend's highlights traditionally come from non-tournament games.

There will be free-throw contests, skills challenges, two-on-two games, and of course, a dunking contest, set for noon tomorrow.

NBA Hoop-It-Up

What: About 2,000 male and female basketball players of all ages and skill levels will compete in a three-on-three street tournament, the largest in the world.

When:Tomorrow, continous play from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Sunday, play starts at 9 a.m. and culminates with the men's and women's Top Gun Division final, held on Center Court at about 2:30.

Where:Mondawmin Mall, West Baltimore

Cost: Spectators can watch the tournament and dunking contest (noon tomorrow), and take part in the weekend's planned special events for free. There are some spots left to enter the tournament at $120 per team, $140 to compete in the Top Gun Division. Registration is today from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Foot Locker inside the mall.

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