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Gus Macker returns to Ironton Saturday

IRONTON — Ironton will be brought to life this weekend as the Gus Macker 3-on-3 basketball tournament makes its fifth annual appearance on the streets of downtown.

Beginning at 8 a.m. Saturday, the tournament is a series of 3-on-3 street style basketball games started in 1974 by Scott McNeal and his brother.

“It’s definitely more than we planned for,” McNeal said. “We started it as kids and it got carried away.”

Since it’s onset, Gus Macker has gained incredible popularity throughout the United States. Although numbers have decreased since the ‘90s, the event still involves 50,000 to 60,000 players a year.

McNeal is proud of creating a family event for all ages that encompasses both competition and moral values.

“It’s designed to be a family weekend together,” he said. “I think overall people come for a fun time.”

To continue the wholesome atmosphere with which the tournament began, McNeal forbids the use of alcohol or tobacco related sponsorships.

This atmosphere is continued in Ironton where Gus Macker tournament chair Joyce Lynd coordinates the weekend for the Friends of Ironton civic group tha tputs it on.

Lynd also serves as the chief probation officer of the Lawrence County Probate Court and fosters this connection as a way of continuing the success of Gus Macker.

“Juvenile court has adopted the Gus Macker tournament as one of our youth programs,” she said.

This year, there are 211 teams registered. Although this is less than previous years, Lynd said she expects a great turnout.

“We always have a great spectator turnout,” she said. “I do believe it’s an event they can be proud of in their community.”

In addition to 3-on-3 games, there will be a kids area featuring inflatable play gyms, a slam dunk contest and “dream court,” a floored court where a division of disabled players will play all day Sunday. McNeal will give the play-by-play for the dream court games.

McNeal said Ironton’s slam dunk contest is unique to Gus Macker due to the $1,000 prize.

“We hope to bring in some good dunks this year,” Lynd said. She said that she hopes the large cash prize will provide incentive for competitive athletes to participate. “It’s really pretty exciting.”

Although fun is the main goal for the weekend, spectators can look forward to some friendly competition.

“Everyone’s pretty serious about it,” Lynd said. “Everyone’s there to at least give their best shot at winning, that’s for sure.” Trophies will be given to the winners of each age group.

Lynd, McNeal and between 150 and 175 volunteers will all work hard to make this weekend a success for all players and spectators involved.

This, said Lynd, is a small price to pay for the reward of participating in such an excellent event.

“It’s all worth while in the end,” Lynd said.