NORWAY — Basketball has a rich history in the Upper Peninsula. This time of the year, the best of the best head south to Norway for the Don Hill Memorial Basketball Tournament, which does a lot for the community.
Don Hill is one of the most iconic names in Norway boys basketball history. As a player, he won state championships with the Knights and experienced a lot of success at Northern Michigan. He later coached at Hermansville, bringing them two state titles before returning to Norway, turning the Knights into a powerhouse in U.P. basketball in the 70’s.
“He was very well–know in town. He was knows in the area. He was known in the U.P. It was very important. When they went on that real long run in the 70’s, that put Norway sports back on the map,” tournament manager Matt “Sweets” McCarthy.
10 years ago, legendary Knights football player Ray Bray set up a basketball tournament to generate funds for a special scholarship that is given to a senior Norway basketball player, in honor of Don Hill. And since then, it has grown to include teams from all over the U.P. and the upper Midwest.
“We had eight teams total. That was it for the first year. We did it all in a day and a half, and it’s grown and grown. Now we have 18 [teams]. I have a women’s class, only one of two tournaments with one, by the way, within many, many miles from here,” McCarthy said.
And the women’s tourney is always one that the crowd loves to watch.
“It gets pretty competitive. I think there’s not a lot around here for girls to do once you’re older. Everybody becomes moms and busy with life that this is the one time of the year we get a chance to be competitive and do our best so we take it all out on the court. We run into a lot of players that we used to play nine, ten years ago so it’s pretty cool now this many years later and see if they’re still as good as they used to be,” Jaimie Clairmont said.
On the men’s side, it’s split up into three groups and brings in players from all sorts of backgrounds and experiences.
Menominee–native Jason Boucher was a standout player for the Maroons, played at Grand Valley State and spent 11 years playing professionally in Germany.
“It’s fun to see guys that I haven’t see for a while. Guys from Carney and guys on our team, there are guys from about four different U.P. towns. We have friends from every city in the U.P. and it’s just good to see a bunch of different guys around here,” said Jason Boucher.
Referee Jim O’Neil has been involved with the tournament for seven years and he says some of the best players come out to take part in this event.
“You get the Don Hill Tournament and then in a couple weeks, there will be the Gold Medals in Hermansville and you’ll see teams from here there. Kids are coming from Michigan Tech, Northern Michigan, Menominee, UW schools. It’s nice to see everyone get here,” Jim O’Neil said.
And this year’s installment was another big success for the Norway area.