RICHTON PARK | Melvin Buckley is determined to provide a value meal of high school basketball.
Last year, the owner of three McDonald's restaurants in the south suburbs became the lead corporate spoonsor of the Big Dipper, now appropriately named the McDipper.
He is not the lone sponsor -- originally sponsored by the Lansing Sports Shop -- but is the biggest and he is loving it. So are the fans.
"(Rich South athletic director) Mark (Hopman) said we needed to keep the price down and that was part of, but not the only reason," Buckley said. "We still want to make this a value for the fans and I believe it is."
It is $5 per session and all the games were well-attended. A bargain if I ever saw one. By the way, there is a lot of good basketball being played at Rich South High School.
"Make it family oriented so the whole family can come," Buckley said. "If the kids are here, they are not out on the streets. Give families something to do."
Buckley last year said he would like to expand the tournament and said he has not given up on that.
"I would like to have the winner from the McDipper play the winner of Proviso West (Holiday Tournament)," Buckley said. "Have it at the United Center. You'd sell out and kind of have it for Chicago bragging rights."
Buckley starred in basketball at Thornridge and Chicago State University, and said if his dream comes true, expansion will take care of itself. Proviso West will expand from 16 to 32 teams next year.
"If we get it where the winners of the two tourneys play each other, we will have teams knocking the door down to get in," Buckley said. "Rich South has run a great tournament and this is great basketball and family fun."
Everything made here is given back to the school, its band and the Ronald McDonald House in Chicago. This is Buckley's money that goes into this tournament. He wouldn't tell me how much, but I guess about $7,000 and that is on the low end. McDonald's corporate office in Oak Brook may come up with some money, but it is Buckley putting his money up.
"This is not about McDonald's or me, it is about giving back to the community," Buckley said. "We hope to have McDonald's products in the concessions. The money would go back to the school, but that would give fans more choices."
With a store across the street from the school on Sauk Trail, a big box of burgers could be there in a few minutes. Throw in some apple dippers and coffee and they will need more concession stand workers. Who knows? Buckley may even have them sell peppermint hot chocolate.
This tournament has been a success and usually you do not tamper with success, but bringing in a corporate sponsor like Buckley is a good change. His forward thinking is what a tournament needs to make sure it continues to generate revenue in what is a tight economy.
The opinions are the writer's. Reach him at email@example.com.