March 18, 2009
For years, Jeff Smith worked for the parks and recreation department and helped children discover and realize opportunities in sports.
Now a county supervisor, Smith hopes to do similar things, starting this weekend.
Smith has helped organize the Mississippi Madness basketball tournament, a 16-team event for men and women 18 years and older, which will tip off a 6 p.m. Friday at West Lowndes Middle School.
The tournament will continue at 9 a.m. Saturday. After Friday, women''s action will be at the middle school, while men''s action will be at West Lowndes High School.
The inaugural tournament is one of a handful of fund-raisers Smith and others in the community have lined up to help support Amateur Athletic Union basketball in West Lowndes.
Admission is free, but there will be tables at each location where people will take donations.
Smith said the challenging economic times forced him to consider other ways to raise money. With many local businesses trying to save money, Smith decided athletic events would be the best way to help raise money for the kids.
"We decided to try to help ourselves, and we plan to start by running an adult basketball tournament," Smith said. "We think it''s going to help us in a tough situation when it is difficult to raise money for the group."
Smith said an adult softball tournament in May and an AAU youth basketball tournament at West Lowndes Middle and High Schools also are being planned.
This weekend''s basketball tournament has attracted 16 teams from Jackson, Greenville, Grenada, Columbus, Macon, Starkville, West Point, and Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Smith said teams paid a $150 entry fee to participate in the double-elimination event. The championship games are scheduled for 9 p.m. Saturday at the middle and high school. They might be played earlier.
Trophies will be awarded for first, second, and third place, and T-shirts will be given to the first-place team in each division.
"It''s a great opportunity to contribute and to help the kids," Smith said. "When I worked in parks and recreation, we always recognized people were willing to support and to help when you had things for young people."
In men''s and women''s play Friday at the middle school, the Mississippi Stars will take on the Mississippi Hoop Dreams I team at 6 p.m., followed by the Lewis Ballers vs. the Running Rebels at 7 p.m.
The Houston Ballers will take on the Lady Bulls at 8 p.m., and Macon will face Greenville at 9 p.m.
On Saturday, men''s games at the high school begin at 11 a.m., while women''s games at the middle school start at 10 a.m.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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