Annual tournament focuses on familyHundreds of people filed into the gym and crowded the hallways at Superior Middle School on Saturday for the annual Austin Edwards 3-on-3 memorial tournament. Among those stopping by to look in on the basketball festivities were college freshmen back in town for spring break. For Michelle Edwards, it’s hard not to think that Austin could have been one of those students returning to spend time with his family.
By: Emily Kram, Superior Telegram
Hundreds of people filed into the gym and crowded the hallways at Superior Middle School on Saturday for the annual Austin Edwards 3-on-3 memorial tournament. Among those stopping by to look in on the basketball festivities were college freshmen back in town for spring break.
For Michelle Edwards, it’s hard not to think that Austin could have been one of those students returning to spend time with his family.
“He would have been a freshman in college,” said Michelle Edwards, Austin’s mother.
Austin Edwards died at the age of 12 in November 2005 from injuries sustained in an ATV accident. Autsin was then starting his third year playing in the Superior Basketball Association, and in 2006 the SBA’s annual 3-on-3 tournament was renamed in his honor.
Michelle Edwards said it has been hard for her family to come to terms with Austin’s death, but the SBA has been very supportive in preserving his memory.
In seven years, the number of teams in playing in the Austin Edwards 3-on-3 memorial tournament has doubled. When the tournament was first named in honor of Edwards in 2006, 47 teams registered to play. This year, the total number of teams ballooned to 95.
“It always amazes me how many teams come out,” Edwards said. “It’s amazing to our family. It’s comforting and it’s very overwhelming at the same time.”
The majority of teams playing Saturday came from Superior, with quite a few from Solon Springs and the Maple school district as well. The 3-on-3 tournament has also extended its reach beyond the immediate community.
Saturday’s event featured teams from as far away as Webster and Frederic, with Minnesota adding competitors from Esko, Cloquet and Duluth.
“I didn’t think we would have this many people because of spring break,” Edwards said. “I’m shocked. I’m excited, but I’m shocked.”
The 3-on-3 tournament is an event for all members of a family, age divisions from second grade through adult.
Players from second grade through eighth grade comprised all but 34 of the 95 teams playing Saturday. Among the three older divisions, the high school boys led the way with 14 teams, followed by the adult division with 11 teams. The high school girls had three entrants in this year’s games.
Team names reflect the fun atmosphere of the game. Some are inexplicable — like the “Donut Eating Unicorns” in the fifth- and sixth-grade girls division — while others go for a bit of self-deprecating humor — the “Lazy But Talented” in the adult division.
Game ran from about 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Saturday, with six games running at one time. On one court, elementary school children would muster all their strength just to heave the ball at the basket. Just a few feet away, high school players with years of experience took the opportunity just to have fun, tossing up off-balanced layups and long 3-point shots.
That fun atmosphere, Edwards said, is what makes the tournament special.
“We want to do positive things out of a tragedy,” Edwards said. “We want to teach people how to have ATV safety, how important it is to have a helmet. And we want people to remember Austin and have a good family day.
“It is a good healing thing for our family too,” Edwards continued. “I don’t think it’s something that you ever truly get over — a loss like that — but I think our main thing is to be able to move ahead positively, and doing this tournament is one of those things.”
Proceeds from the Austin Edwards 3-on-3 memorial tournament go toward the SBA to keep registration costs down. The tournament also donates to area schools to help fix gym equipment and provides funds to special events for traveling teams.
“The big thing we do is every year we purchase a gift for all of the SBA participants, which was 387 this year,” Edwards said. “We gave them all hooded sweatshirts (this year). Last year we gave them all duffel bags.
“We try to give back to the community and give back to the parents and the kids.”