Last Modified: Saturday, August 10, 2013 5:51 PM
Barbe High’s gym was once again brought to life by high-flying dunks, long-range jumpers and some dazzling dribbling exploits Saturday.
All this as the area’s annual basketball festival plays out this weekend in Lake Charles. The Tournament of the Stars is the finale of a monthlong series of events the ends with the basketball event.
This is the 19th year Harold McReynolds has brought the tournament to the city, growing it from six teams in that first year to 38 this weekend.
There have been as many as 50 teams in past years, but McReynolds called that “too many.”
He likes the number to be between 30 and 40, keeping it manageable for his army of volunteers.
“You want to put on a good show and that is what is important,” said McReynolds, who was watching over games at Barbe Saturday afternoon like a proud father looking at his oldest child grown up.
“I like where we are now. We have a good number and good quality. That is the important thing, to get good teams to come play.”
Good players have always been happy to play in Lake Charles. Maybe it’s the casino down the road, or the reputation of a good tournament. No matter the reason, players have flocked to Lake Charles to play despite the fact there is no real quality big arena.
The title game will be played at 2 p.m. today in the Civic Center.
“I think it would help to get a bigger, newer arena,” said NBA player Stephen Jackson. “I would be for it. You might get some more guys to show up, or stick around. But I will still come here no matter what.”
Jackson is one of the many NBA players who have stopped in Lake Charles for some summer work and play. The former San Antonio Spur who grew up in Port Arthur, Texas, called Lake Charles his “second home.”
He is only happy to give back to the area by bringing along a few friends to play.
“This is great competition and people know that,” said Jackson. “Look at some of the names who have played here. I like competition and this is a good spot to get that in the summer.”
Then there is the fact that this is all for a good cause.
The tournament is the final piece to an event that has helped provide scholarships for high school seniors on their way to college. Usually the TOS awards between five and eighth scholarships every April to kids from the five-parish area.
“That is the important thing,” said McReynolds. “It is great that we bring these players to the city and put on a good show, but it is to help the kids. We do a lot of things that don’t get noticed, but this tournament is a way to make all that happen.”
It is the giving back to the community that makes it easy for Jackson to come back to play.
“People in this area don’t get a chance to see pro basketball players play very often in person, so this is one way to advance our game,” he said. “Also, this is a great way to give back to a community that helps kids and to support that cause.
“That is another reason why this has been so successful. Harold makes this work. He has become a good friend over the years and anything I can do to help him and the cause I will do.”
And if it means playing basketball, then Jackson is even that much more willing to lend a hand.
“I love to play,” Jackson said. “I love to play against good teams and other good players. And we hope to put on a show for the fans to enjoy.”
Jackson and others stayed long after their first game Saturday to sign autographs and take pictures with fans.
This year didn’t have as many big names as in the past, especially two years ago when players flocked to such tournaments during the NBA lockout. That was the summer when current Houston Rockets star James Harden dropped 18 3-point shots in a game at Barbe and proclaimed, “I love this gym.”
Most of the players who have made it to Lake Charles feel the same way about the event, and that is what keeps a smile on McReynolds’ face.
“You want to give the fans a good show, but you also want to have the players leave with a good feeling so they will come back,” McReynolds said. “We get a lot of national attention and a lot of other directors of tournaments from around the country come here to see how we do it.
“That puts some pressure on us to put on a good show.”
Once again, McReynolds seems to be doing that.