Basketball players ‘Bring it’ at Bennett Memorial Tournament
It was a record year for the Alex Bennett 3-on-3 Memorial Basketball Tournament.
“This was the largest tournament we’ve ever had,” said Steve Irion, who has helped organize the tournament during its six-year run.
Some 63 teams gathered on Sunday at Saunders Fieldhouse at Mesa State College.
The tournament was so large, in fact, that in addition to using the Wayne Nelson court, some games were played on the fieldhouse’s recreation center courts.
Teams competed in 10 divisions for males and females, eight in the youth divisions from grades 5 through 12 and one each in the men’s and women’s open categories.
“We had a good turnout,” Irion said.
The tournament is the primary fundraiser for the Alex Bennett Scholarship Fund.
The fund was established to honor Bennett, who died in an automobile accident one week before he was to begin his junior year at Grand Junction High School in 2003.
Each year, the fund selects male and female senior scholarship recipients from one of the four District 51 schools. It also funds one scholarship for the Mesa State College basketball program.
Bennett’s parents, Doug and Mary, sort through the scholarship applications each year to determine the recipients.
“Usually it’s pretty easy to figure out,” said Doug Bennett. “There’s one (applicant) that shines.”
The Bennetts now live in the Chicago area but return to Grand Junction the first Sunday in November each year to help run the tournament.
“It’s truly a tournament of love,” Mary Bennett said.
Businesses from throughout the community donated to this year’s tournament.
The tournament also gives the Bennetts a chance to renew acquaintances with players who were former teammates or opponents of Bennett during his high school days.
Doug Bennett has seen the tournament’s impact in the Midwest.
“I saw a T-shirt from the tournament at Midway (Airport),” he said.
The shirt, which has used the same logo since the tournament’s inception in 2004, has an image of a basketball with flames trailing it and the motto, “Bring it.”
“Alex used to say that all the time,” Mary said.
Six years later, Alex Bennett’s legacy remains strong.