Feeling that he was a decent basketball player that loved the game, Johnnie Mayes assumed that he was getting too many bad calls from a certain referee. That referee said something profound to him that would forever change his outlook on life. He told him, “You would be a much better athlete if you knew the rules. You need to get some understanding of the game.”
Mayes took that advice to the next level. Not only did he learn the rules, he obtained his officiating license, accumulated 35 years of experience as a referee and umpire, and founded the Mayes Community Temple 5-on-5 Hoops Classic Basketball Tournament—which is about to celebrate its 35th annual event.
The Hoops Classic tournament began in a backyard court Mayes built, at the encouragement of friends, to fulfill his desire to make learning the game fun for future generations of young players and to give the neighborhood kids a place to play anytime. His knowledge and understanding the rules of basketball also fueled a desire to create an atmosphere for young men to play ball by bringing their various talents together. His backyard tournaments became a mid-summer tradition in Marion, drawing talented young men from all over Ohio and beyond–as far away as New York—and, even, a talented State Representative from Ohio.
The tournament eventually outgrew his backyard court and, after several attempts in other parks, it was moved to Martin Luther King Park, where for the past 35 years it has been known as the Mayes Community Temple 5-on-5 Hoops Classic. According to Mayes, the tournament began as a way to encourage the young men of his church, but it has become much more. This year’s Hoops Classic will be held July 19-21.
While the location remains the same, the tournament has a new address. Last month, the address of Martin Luther King Park was officially changed to 206 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. in Marion. Formerly Cass Avenue, the street was renamed following a petition drive by the Marion Minority Commission and a unanimous vote by City Council. New street signs are already installed on the small, west side street.
Like the street, the park was also created in response to resident requests decades earlier to honor the civil rights icon. While the area was once largely populated by African American residents, a lot has changed since the park opened in the late 1980s. The streets surrounding the park are now a blend of different cultures and these cultures are reflected and encouraged in the participants of the Hoops Classic tournament.
The Hoops Classic is held annually on the weekend of the 3rd Sunday of July. Participating teams and players represent differing backgrounds, cultures, and ethnicities from across Ohio. Mayes considers the tournament and surrounding activities to be a landmark Marion event where people enjoy fun, food, and fellowship the entire weekend. In addition to the tournament, the event includes exhibition games, a Gospel concert, and a showcase of local entertainment talent.
Registration for the 2019 Hoops Classic is in progress now through July 17 and is open to youth and adult teams. The team entry fee is $175. According to Mayes, the tournament draw will take place two days before the tournament at 6 p.m. in the White Hall shelter house at Lincoln Park. Additional participant, team, and vendor information is available by calling Mayes at 740-751-5662.
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