By Mark Lewis

Local Sports Journal

For 18 years, the American Youth Basketball Tour (AYBT) has offered middle and high school student-athletes the opportunity to play summer basketball in a tournament-like atmosphere. AYBT has also delivered valuable lessons on and off the court.

This year is no different as Fort Wayne will once again host AYBT’s national tournament with grades 8-12 going July 17-20 and grades 3-7 going July 21-24.

Tournament co-founder and current President Jim Goorman said the annual event, now in its 10th year in Fort Wayne, will offer opportunities for both the highly skilled and the player looking to get better.

Jim Goorman, AYBT President

Jim Goorman, AYBT President

“There are no awards, no medals, for our national tournaments, except on the last day,” said Goorman, when teams of varying ages and skill levels will battle for a coveted national title. “We are just as interested in providing a place for players looking to get better as we are a showcase of the (elite) players.”

AYBT was founded in 1995 by a group of basketball enthusiasts dedicated to developing the talents of youth basketball players. From the very beginning, a particular focus has been to develop  new players while also promoting social skills, teamwork and good sportsmanship. The organization’s 60/40 philosophy – that every player should play 40-60 percent of the entire tournament – guarantees every player that participates won’t just be a spectator on the bench.

Goorman said AYBT takes measures to ensure all the teams are correctly categorized by age and skill level.

“We go through great effort to verify ages and ability,” he said.

Each team plays at least two games per day over the first three days of pool play, and is guaranteed a seventh game on the final day of the tourney, though many teams play more than that.

Upwards of 50 district tournaments serve as a feeder system to the nationals events, which are also in Bloomington, Ill. (July 18-21)

Spiece Fieldhouse

Spiece Fieldhouse

The Fort Wayne event is played at the acclaimed Spiece Fieldhouse, 5310 Merchandise Dr., an eight-court, air-conditioned facility, and at three smaller facilities at Taylor University, St. Francis University and at the historic Northside High School.

Goorman said the Spiece facility is “practically a shrine” to basketball.

“It’s like a museum in there,” he said. “Parents and players will be surprised when they walk in and see all the pieces of basketball history. There is plenty to look at. It is a beautiful place and we are glad to be back there.”

Other Fort Wayne attractions include the Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory, the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo, the Jefferson Pointe Shopping Center, and Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne.

But AYBT participants will have their hands full with the tournament, with 3-point and slam dunk contests (varsity players), as well as a popular roller skating event, running each night of the tourney.

Though the tourney will once again see some of the top talents in the country, which in the past have included Michigan State University standouts Drew Neitzel and Kalin Lucas, among many others, Goorman insists the event is for any player looking to get better.

“Make no mistake, this is a personal/player-development tournament,” he said. “It’s great to see a team that performs poorly one year, come back the next year and look like a different team. That’s what this is all about. For the many teams that go on to win state titles back home for their schools, AYBT is a big part of their overall improvement.”

Northside High School gym

North Side High School gym

Then he added, “Players are made in the summer.”

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Categories: featured, Fort Wayne, Nationals

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