Summit County’s 3v3 basketball tournament kicks off |

Summit County’s 3v3 basketball tournament kicks off

A Summit High basketball player takes a shot during the annual three-on-three basketball tournament at the Silverthorne Recreation Center. The tourney returns to the rec center on July 30, with registration still available online through
Leo Wolfson / Special to the Daily |

Here in Summit County, we are blessed with a plethora of outdoor activities to constantly choose from. Only problem is, sometimes sports less associated with the area, like basketball, tend to get glanced over.

Hoop Dreams Inc. and the town of Silverthorne, made a big step towards changing that on Saturday, hosting the “3 on 3 At The Summit” basketball tournament. The double-elimination, outdoor tournament was held on the newly renovated Rainbow Park basketball court in Silverthorne, a facility that organizers hope will become the go-to spot that the Summit basketball community has been lacking.

“We’re just trying to get the word out … there’s a good group … but it’s tough in the summer because there’s so many things going on up here. Basketball’s just not a priority … There’s a lot of players … But, I don’t think there’s a common place,” explained event organizer Jordan Buller.

Organizers hope that the tournament sheds light on the new courts and will unite the often inconsistent Summit basketball scene.

“It comes in waves; we get a lot of really good basketball players, so sometimes the scene can be great, and other times it’s kind of thin,” said Scott Smith.

“The basketball players in Breck, they play in Breck, and the guys in Silverthorne, play in Silverthorne. They don’t mix a lot,” explained Kelly Carlberg.

Saturday’s tournament appeared to at least temporarily change this with players on-hand from throughout the county, many of which were playing on the new court for the first time. The court facelift included new lines, wind-breaking fences and a state-of-the-art surface, featuring a post-tension concrete build. The innovative design drastically cuts costs of court maintenance by reducing surface warping caused by natural land erosion. Although concrete may not be the comfiest surface to fall on, many still found it preferable to the average outdoor court.

“Having a really nice court outdoors makes a huge difference; I mean, if all you can do is shoot around because the floors not flat and the rims are kind of busted, it doesn’t make it fun. Whereas here, you can play some serious games anytime you want,” said Buller.

On Saturday, clear skies greeted players, with bright sun shining vibrantly off the new court paint. With five teams checked in and ready to go around 8:30 a.m., he started discussing the game rules. Amidst his speech, some light-hearted trash talking and a handful of friendly gibes were exchanged, setting the tone for a day filled with rivalrous camaraderie.

“Look, I don’t want this to become a foul-fest,” he explained.

“Just don’t argue with me, Jordan,” chided one older gentleman mockingly.

All jokes aside, excitement was high, and it was obvious that the tournament was being taken very seriously, with $100 on the line for each player of the winning team. With a look of steely resolve crested on the faces of almost every player, one would almost have thought that they were about to watch an NBA playoff game rather than a 3v3 community basketball tournament. Finally, after last chest bumps and fist pounds, Buller dribbled the ball in and the “At the Summit” began.

Although the 3v3 games were played on half courts, competition was no less fierce than in a full-sized game. A wide variety of playing levels were spread throughout, which created for some particularly close games. So close, in fact, that each game was decided by no more than a few points.

A small, but vocal, cheering section stood on the sidelines, giving the games a classic, street ball-type feel. With cheers and jeers ringing out in both English and Spanish, I felt like I was in New York City, watching a game at historic Rucker Park. The raucous ambience added to the competitive nature seen on the court, and it didn’t take long before players started to become chippy.

“I’m getting clobbered out here!” one complained, which was met by an unsympathetic, “You guys are being a bunch of babies,” retort.

Little spats like these are all too common at self-officiated tournaments like the one on Saturday. Luckily at the Summit 3v3, once players left the court, all tension appeared to be laid to rest, with hand shakes and jokes traded among the teams.

“It would have been better if they had refs … but, it’s fun just because there’s hardly been any tournaments out here,” explained Luis Gutierrez.

He was one of four members on a team made up of former and current Summit High basketball players. Although his team was far and away the youngest and most athletic, this didn’t mean that older teams didn’t hold their own.

“There’s a range for sure … some of these grey-haired dudes are hitting from outside, too,” said Molly Clark.

Carlberg was one of these ‘grey-haired dudes,’ keeping pace with the best of them, routinely out hustling players half his age, for loose balls and rebounds.

“It evens things up when you’ve got half court … It’s still intense and competitive … With full court, those young guys just start outrunning us,” he said with a laugh.”

After a few hours, the dust started to settle, and two teams emerged for the championship: Buller’s team and Gutierrez’s Summit High boys. A closely-contested, heated battle between old and young would follow with the Summit team maintaining a blazing fast pace, while Buller’s bunch, in contrast, took things more conservatively, with a stronger emphasis on passing and defense. In the end, experience reigned king, as Buller hit a final three for the win and the championship amid disappointed cries from the rowdy, Summit boys fan section.

Already thinking to the future, he wants to go even bigger, with an indoor tournament planned in the winter and a possible collaboration with the town of Breckenridge in the works for next summer to put on a 16-team outdoor tournament spread throughout the county.

“I think today will just remind people that playing ball is fun, and you can play outside, especially with the new court here,” he explained. “Gym space is limited … and just to have an outdoor court to be reminded that, man, it’s nice to play outside. It’s nice to be out in the sunshine … I don’t know where you’re going to find a better view in the county.”

After the success of Saturday’s tournament, the only better view may be that of the future for the Summit basketball community.

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