NEGAUNEE, MI – 12/3/2014 – A 50-year tradition in Negaunee basketball ended today. The Negaunee Invitational Tournament (NIT) committee announced today (via their Facebook page) that they’ve put out their last tournament. They release the following statement:
NEGAUNEE—Negaunee Basketball, Inc. announced it will be disbanding, effective immediately, and has already dispersed all remaining funds into community organizations and scholarships.
“We’ve had a great 50-year run, and it’s bittersweet,” tournament director John Basolo said. “The committee thanks the volunteers, players and fans who made this a successful event throughout the years.”
The organization has put on the Negaunee Invitational Basketball Tournament at Lakeview Memorial Gymnasium, a month-long event, with a core group of less than 10 people for decades. More than 100 teams from the local area and the Midwest participated in the tournament each year.
“Our volunteers are wonderful and dedicated, but the reality is that we’re small in numbers and just not able to put on that quality of an event anymore,” Basolo said. “We’re tired, and rather than see the quality of the event decline, we’ve decided to go out on a high note.”
Over the years, the tournament has raised money and given it back to the community, including thousands of dollars to the Negaunee school systems and other school-related causes and scholarships each year.
Basolo and his wife Terry, who were home to “NIT central,” were honored at the 50th anniversary celebration during the 2014 Class A weekend festivities after more than 35 years of volunteer service to the organization.
“We thank Charter Communications, Fox Negaunee, The Screened Image and the dozens of other local businesses who helped make this event possible every year, as well as the Negaunee Public Schools,” Basolo said. “Without them, we wouldn’t have been able to put on such a quality event.”
As a 23-year resident of Negaunee, Michigan (which is not long by any means), I’m writing this article with a lot of sadness today. The NITs were a part of every, even minimally involved, basketball inclined kid of Negaunee. The committee gave kids a chance to get out of the house, sit back with friends, and watch some quality basketball, albeit at varying skill levels.
As a kid, my friends and I spent our early-spring days being chased around and on a few occasions, being kicked out by Mr. Basolo, a man I consider a friend now as a young man. The days of “Jumping Jack” Kelly, Chris Boykins’ “Outlawz”, and all of the great memories accompanied spending Class E weekend through the exciting Class A festivities are some of the greatest memories I have. From being four years old and watching my dad play each year, to suiting up alongside of him and my brothers is are moments I’ll treasure for the rest of my life.
For me, so much like when assistant football coach Mark Marana hung up his coaching whistle, and no other players would play for him, I feel a similar remorse for those kids who will never get the chance to play in the tournament. It brings you back. Once high school is over, you may not get a chance to play a competitive game on that floor ever again. Except in the tournament, and maybe a few city league games here and there. There’s a feel to playing in Lakeview Gymnasium that just brings waves of nostalgia.
There may come a day when a new tournament can take it’s place. When a younger group steps up and takes responsibility for it, but it will never be the same. What the NITs did for the community we will never truly know. Whether it’s bringing business to the area every March & April, or giving young punks like me a place to hang out, or even to get a chance to put up a few shots on the side-courts before John would chase me out of there, the NITs hold a special place in a lot of people’s hearts.
So thank you to all those who helped put this tournament together every year for the past 50. We wish there were 50 more on the way. Thanks for all of the memories. We will truly miss it.
-Carl Leander Johnson