The best gift card you might give someone is a day pass to the McDipper XLI basketball tournament, which begins Thursday at Rich South High School.
Five dollars a day. That's right. The best buy in town. Rich South athletic director Mark Hopman and assistant Nancy Adduci want to make sure it is still good family entertainment.
Bringing in more corporate sponsors like Melvin Buckley, who owns several McDonald's in the suburbs, and the Derrick Rose Foundation, certainly helps keep down the price. There is also Lansing Sports Shop, the original sponsor for then-Rich South athletic director George Egofske's idea of a Christmas tournament. Until a few years ago, it was the Big Dipper and it was and still is big time.
This year, Marian Catholic is wearing uniforms that Lansing Sports Shop gave to last year's winner. LSS's Tony Rosati continues the community spirit that his late father Anthony started.
Yes, at 41, the McDipper is going strong and has no mid-life arthritis or aches and pains. The tournament does have a national flavor as Hopman pointed out recently at the event's tip-off dinner at the Glenwood Oaks Restaurant. Barron Collier from Naples, Fla. will experience the Chicago winter and South Side basketball at its best when it comes up.
Everybody kidded Hopman that he will have a condo in Naples when he retires, but for now Collier hopefully bring some warmth up here for the tourney.
Egofske was ahead of his time with the 35-second shot clock and adding a 3-point line in 1983, which later became standard in college and high school ball. The shot clock assures the games stay close to their scheduled times. This tourney certainly runs like clockwork. The clock is a challenge for teams to get into their sets and go. It has not turned into a shoot-from-anywhere. It has become a fun tourney to play in and to watch. Unfortunately, not many high school events pack the gym anymore, but the McDipper is an exception. It is good, family fun with a high quality of basketball.
It runs through Dec. 28, takes Sunday off, with the championship game scheduled for Dec. 30.
College scouts are in the stands and for small college and junior college programs. The McDipper and the Proviso West tournament are a smorgasbord of talent. Those schools don't have big recruiting budgets, so coaches get the most bang for their buck.
Marian Catholic is the defending champ and Tyler Ulis has the chance to become the first to repeat as MVP of the tourney and first to make the all-tournament team four years in a row. There are 15 other teams that want to hoist the Ronald McDonald trophy on Dec. 30.
Thornton is having a good season and the Wildcats hope to make a run. There is usually not a bad game in the tourney.
Who will win it? We'll have to wait and see, along with a packed house that will also be there.