MIKE NIETO: Some stars behind the scenes at the McDipper

2011-12-22T21:45:00Z 2013-04-19T22:55:14Z MIKE NIETO: Some stars behind the scenes at the McDipperBy Mike Nieto Prep Beat nwitimes.com
December 22, 2011 9:45 pm  • 

The 35-second shot clock and the coach's box are just two of the things that make the McDipper Tournament a unique boys basketball tournament.

Another is Thornridge grad Melvin Buckley throwing the McDonald's sponsorship behind this classic tournament last year.

The arches truly are golden for the old Big Dipper, which took on the name of Ray Kroch's legacy. In a time when tourneys are in need of cash flow and businesses are cutting back, Buckley put his money into the 'Dipper.

It begins Monday at Rich South High School and is a bargain for your money.

There are many who work behind the scenes to it a success, such as tournament director Mark Hopman, Rich South assistant principal for athletics and activities, and his staff.

There is also Kevin Kelly and Nancy Adduci, who have been involved in the tournament for years. Adduci has served under three athletic directors in George Egofske, Ron Ray and Hopman, and this is her 26th Dipper.

She makes sure everything is running smoothly, including the hospitality room for officials and media. She hops from task to task, from making sure the concession stand does not run out of hot dogs and popcorn or the ticket booth out of tickets to ensuring a college coach has his pass.

"It's kind of like an after-Christmas getting-together-with-family," Adduci said. "Yes, it is a lot of work, but I thoroughly enjoy it, and this tournament is very special. I have been lucky to work under three great athletic directors."

Kelly is the official statistician of the tourney, the walking numbers man. Though he is now an assistant athletic director and assistant boys basketball coach at Marian Catholic, he has just about every fact and figure from the tourney, which is in its 39th year.

His interest goes back to when the 1980 Marian grad and Homewood native was in high school. It followed when he worked as a student assistant in Marquette University's sports information department. It continued when he was sports editor of the Star and helped put together the program, from 1988 to 1999.

"I guess I have always been a big numbers guy, stats, any kind," Kelly said. "The numbers tell a lot of the story about the prestige of this tournament. I am glad to have been a part of this as a fan, media person and now as a coach.

"You step back and realize what a great tournament this is, and it has a local flavor to it. The 1980s with Kendall Gill and Bobby Smith at Rich Central, Phil Henderson at Crete-Monee, and Evanston with Everrette Stephens. A lot of big names have played here."

Kelly helped put all the records together for the website mcdipper.com. He used to help put the program out in the 1980s, including putting the photos together. He said taking a photo class from Dr. Clifford Helbert in the basement of Marquette's Johnston Hall came in handy. He said he also honed his writing skills in that class.

"I wrote a lot of letters in that class," he said. "I also put a program together for a grade school Catholic tournament in Milwaukee. One of the big downtown law firms ran it, and I had the opportunity to get my start."

Adduci said there is gratitude when people tell her how they appreciate their stay.

"It is really nice when the players, the young men, tell us thank you," she said. "It's a tournament for them and I am glad they played hard and had a good time."

This column is the writer's opinion. Reach him at mike.nieto@nwi.com.

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