HIBBING — James Plese has worked on it, set it up and played in it, and he thinks the event is second-to-none.

That event is the Hoops on Howard 3-on-3 Basketball Tournament, which made a comeback last year, and will be held again Saturday, Aug. 3, beginning at 9 a.m., on Howard Street, between third and fifth avenues.

Plese doesn’t mind working with it, but he gets more enjoyment suiting up with his buddies for the fun of the game.

“I played in it before, and I’m happily playing in it again,” Plese said. “We like basketball, the love of playing ball still. The atmosphere of playing on Howard has been, to us, is a cool thing. Playing outdoors in that environment appealed to me and my buddies.”

Those buddies and Plese won the Men’s Rec League title last year. Tim Walters was one of those players. This year, Plese and Walters are reunited, and they will team with Jon Pessenda and a fourth player who hasn’t been locked down yet.

Plese still has memories of the time he played when he was just out of high school and in college.

“It still gets me going,” Plese said. “When I was playing out of high school, we played against Doug Schmitz. They didn’t back down. I’d like to think we won’t back down now. We played teams tough. We lucked out last year. It was the luck of the draw to make a run at it.

“This still gets the juices flowing, or as much as we’d like to think it does. It’s always a fun experience, and it’s basketball. It’s fun to win, but we want to have a good time. We want to enjoy ourselves, too.”

That, in itself, is the main reason to participate in the tourney.

“It’s a lot of fun,” Plese said. “I’m glad it was brought back. It’s a small part of the community. Jodie Maki, Joel McDonald and the rest of the committee got the wheels moving on that. It’s so much fun to be out there playing basketball.

“Hibbing might be a hockey town, but it’s nice to have that day in the sun, the spotlight for basketball. A lot of people are interested in it.”

Last year, a good number of teams participated in the tourney. The committee staff is hoping that more teams show up this year.

“Hopefully, this tournament grows,” Plese said. “We want to get it back to where it was. We’re hoping to draw some out-of-the-area teams to come. It’s also nice to see the alumni come back and play. Those are people we don’t get to see up here all of the time.”

One of those alumni and current Hermantown resident is Adam Kleffman, who played in the event back in the early 1990s.

His daughter Jenna, is now taking part in the event.

“When I played, I liked the camaraderie and the fun of playing rivals from the other schools,” Kleffman said. “It was fun playing with your buddies. It’s a great community event. It brought a lot of people out. It was a great time.”

It also brings back great memories for Kleffman.

“I’ve talked about playing in it numerous times,” Kleffman said. “It brings back a lot of memories of going to school in Hibbing. I get to touch base with buddies I haven’t seen for a long time.

“It’s always good to go back to the community you came from.”

Kleffman, who teamed with Jeremy Fleming and Jake Montgomery, knows how Jenna feels while she’s playing in the event.

“I liked the community aspect of it,” Kleffman said. “It brings a lot of people to town. I live in Hermantown now, and my daughter gets to compete against some of the girls we don’t get to compete against during the season.

“She likes hanging out with her friends and playing against other people from the other cities. It’s a challenge. That’s how competitive it is. Some of our girls were into the 3-point challenge and the skills challenge. That’s what they liked.”

Current Hibbing High School boys basketball players Parker Maki got his first taste of Hoops on Howard last year.

He has competed in two other 3-on-3 tournaments, the David K. Tournament at Duluth East High School, but he said this tourney really caught his eye.

“I got some experience with it,” Maki said. “I had played in only two other three-on-three tournaments. This one was fun. It was outside on the street. That was cool. It was a different atmosphere that I wasn’t used to. The street has different angles, and the main difference is the background for shooting.

“It’s a lot different than a gym. Playing halfcourt, that saves a lot of energy. You’re not running back and forth, but you never can be too safe with a lead. It’s easier to come back from a deficit three-on-three.”

Maki , who will be playing with Ayden McDonald and Mayson Brown this year, likes the competitive atmosphere of the tourney.

“It’s getting out there and playing different people,” Maki said. “We have thoughts about winning it, but I like this format because it allows you to play basketball and not worry about sets or anything. It allows you to be creative.”

There’s still time to register for the tourney. Registration ends at 11:59 p.m., Monday. Go to www.hibbingboysbasketball.org to register.


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