DARIEN CENTER – Different location, same miserable weather.
First it rained a little during the opening day of the Gus Macker 3-on-3 Basketball Tournament in the parking lot at Darien Lake Theme Park. Then what had been a drizzle picked up in intensity to the point where a downpour brought about a 20-minute weather delay at the tournament and forced officials to move up the start of today’s final to 8 a.m.
While the rain, which always seems to wreak havoc with this event, may have made it difficult for competitors to grip the basketball and maintain solid footing on courts (especially the Sports Courts, the synthetic showcase-game courts placed over the blacktop), the precipitation wasn’t enough to completely dampen Blake McLimans’ spirits Saturday.
The former three-sports star at Hamburg and member of Michigan’s national runner-up men’s basketball team in 2013 is playing for the Monstars 2 this weekend. They still have a chance at walking away with the main men’s draw championship, provided they run the table today.
The Monstars won two games after opening with a loss to pre-tournament favorite Team Breth. McLimans had some issues shooting the wet ball, but did serve as a reminder to all that size is always a good thing for a team to have at the Macker as the 6-foot-10 big man was tough to handle down low. That was especially the case during the Monstars’ losers bracket win over the Clout Boys, which set up an early-morning game today against DMPDominance for the right to stay alive in the tournament that had been a staple of the Buffalo festival season until sponsorship issues resulted in it moving to its new Darien Lake home.
“It was a fun first day,” said McLimans. “It was way too rainy for me to play basketball today.” The shots he missed from outside “usually fall for me, so I’m not worried heading into Sunday.”
This is the first Macker in which McLimans has been allowed to play since high school because NCAA rules prohibit college athletes from participating. His last Macker prior to Saturday took place in the streets of downtown Buffalo.
“It’s a little different,” McLimans said about playing at Darien Lake compared with Buffalo. “It’s smaller. There’s less teams, but the competition is still good, especially on the main court. There are always good players here, so even though it’s a different atmosphere, the competition level is still pretty high so I’m excited about that.”
Other top talents in the men’s main draw include former University at Buffalo standout Dan Gilbert, who is playing for Bottoms Up, ex-Jamestown star and Iona point guard Maceo Wofford, former Grover Cleveland star Jose Narvaez (Bottoms Up) and a host of other former tough, talented players looking for Macker championship glory.
“One thing about having all these top players here is it gives us even more credibility,” said Bill Gorman, Gus Macker events manager. “It’s great having players of that caliber participating because we can promote a safe and competitive atmosphere for them to continue their basketball careers.”
McLimans helped Michigan go from an under .500 outfit to national runner-up during his three seasons there as a role player. He started four games this past season at Miami (Ohio) while pursuing his master’s degree there, but left the program after his 66-year-old father, Jeffrey, was stricken with an undisclosed illness. Since his dad lived alone, Blake left school to take care of him.
“His health and energy are back up. He’s doing well.”
So well now that McLimans will head to Chicago in a few weeks to a start a new job in the logistics field. First, he has some unfinished business to take care of today.
“Every time you compete you want to win,” he said.