It’s not just good basketball, it’s good basketball that brings in $2 million to the area.
Thousands of players, coaches and spectators arrived in Wichita this week for the Mid America Youth Basketball national championship tournament, which began Thursday night and runs through Sunday.
“Wherever you go around Wichita, you’ll see basketball teams,” said Layne Frick, a spokesman for the tournament. “They’re everywhere.”
About 750 teams from 25 states are expected to compete in the tournament, Frick said. That translates to about 35,000 people in Wichita and surrounding areas, he said, once you count coaches, parents, siblings and other family members.
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The girls national tournament is being held in Oklahoma City this weekend.
Every hotel and motel room within a 40-mile radius of Wichita is booked, said Ryan Hujing, MAYB office manager. Visitors spend approximately $2 million on lodging, travel, meals and attractions, according to Go Wichita.
“This brings a unique crowd, and hype as well,” Frick said. “… We hear business owners who say, ‘We want to make sure we stock the shelves.’ ”
Games started Thursday evening and ran all day Friday at 50 courts in Wichita, El Dorado, Andover, Clearwater, Newton, Haysville, Halstead, Augusta and Benton. Another full day of competition is set for Saturday.
The teams are divided by age group — third grade through high school — and are considered the best of the best, Hujing said.
“We invite the champions of every tournament that we’ve hosted throughout the year,” he said. “It’s going to be the top teams of every age group that are coming in here.”
The championship games will be Sunday in Andover, starting at 9 a.m. with third-graders and finishing at 9 p.m. with high school juniors and seniors.
Teams from each age group filtered into the Farha Sport Center at the South YMCA on Thursday for skills competitions that included dunking, shooting and dribbling.
Jared Givens, who will be a seventh-grader at Wilbur Middle School, competed in the third- through sixth-grade dunking competition. He jumped over the top of fellow teammates for his dunk.
Givens was the sole competitor in his age category — several of the teams were still out seeing Wichita’s sites — so he won first place and a trophy. His family cheered and took photos from the bleachers.
“That felt pretty good,” Givens said afterward. He said he learned his moves from watching the NBA.
The tournament also gives players and coaches a chance to network with one another, Hujing said.
“For these little boys to come to a tournament like this, some of these kids will never have an experience like this again in their life,” said Gregory Johnson, a coach of seventh- and eighth-graders out of Beaumont, Texas. “This experience, for them, means a whole lot.”
On Thursday, a few groups were getting a tour of the Wichita State University campus, which some out-of-state teams “get geared up for,” Hujing said. Others will go swimming, to the zoo or to the Warren Theatres.
However, “It’s not a summer vacation,” Johnson said. “We’re here to take care of business.”