Jason Unruh glanced at his cellphone frequently during a recent interview. That’s been the norm for the weeks leading up to Oregon National Guard Hoopla XV.
Yearlong preparation for the tournament director culminates today with the state’s largest 3-on-3 street basketball event, played in the shadow of the state Capitol.
What began in 1999 with 151 teams has blossomed into one of Salem’s premier annual events, with more than 800 teams expected to participate this year in 50 divisions on 60 courts, primarily on Court Street NE and State Street.
“To think back to where we started and where we are now, it’s really mind boggling and makes me pretty proud,” Unruh said.
There should be something for everyone in the four-day hoops extravaganza, from quality basketball to food and music. In conjunction with the event, Hoopla is running the Bite and Brew of Salem at Riverfront Park for the first time.
Hoopla, which has raised more than $300,000 for local youth-based organizations in the past 14 years, has succeeded through the hard work of its volunteers. With the exception of referees, who often donate their paychecks, no one is paid.
Unruh said there will be more than 750 volunteer staffers this year, with many of them on athletic teams at local high schools.
“It’s definitely not just me,” said Unruh, 41, who has been tournament director since Hoopla’s inception. “I have a lot of people I consult with and rely upon.”
During the first few years of Hoopla, Unruh played in the men’s open division. There’s too much on his plate these days to think about lacing up his sneakers.
It is a juggling act of sorts for Unruh, who is heading into his 11th season as girls basketball coach at West Salem. The Titans have won three consecutive Central Valley Conference titles.
“Hoopla defines me in the summer, and coaching the girls at West Salem defines me in the winter,” Unruh said. “It’s a nice balance between the two.”
Among the highlights of the four-day event:
Today’s free Kids’ Clinic featuring former Portland Trail Blazers guard Patty Mills, who now plays for the San Antonio Spurs. Meadowlark Lemon of Harlem Globetrotters fame originally was scheduled to appear, but he will be unable to attend.
A 2-on-2 tournament today at the Salem Convention Center featuring former Oregon all-America forward Luke Jackson, who played parts of four seasons with four NBA teams. Jackson was named head men’s basketball coach at Northwest Christian University in February.
The first Hoopla Hoop Camp on Friday led by former Willamette men’s basketball coach Gordie James, who is a member of the school’s athletic hall of fame.
The slam dunk contest and the finals of the 3-point shootout will be held Saturday.
Sunday brings the championship finals, with $4,500 in prize money available in six of the divisions. Top prizes are $1,000 to the winning teams in the men’s and women’s open divisions, and men’s 6-foot-and-under Division I.
Casey Bunn, a former all-state player at Stayton and all-Pac-12 selection at Oregon State, said playing for money “is a great incentive.” She was on the women’s open championship team last year.
“It makes things more competitive,” said Bunn, who is the girls basketball coach at Tualatin. “You know something’s on the line and it brings out the best in you.”
There will be other familiar faces at Hoopla, including Ryan Skinner, who is a member of the Hoopla Hall of Fame.
Chris Young, a North Salem grad who set a Hoopla record by playing in seven divisions last season, has reduced his workload to six divisions in 2013. That translates into 18 games Saturday.
Brian Vincent, who grew up in Keizer, will be making his Hoopla debut as a member of Amp 1 Basketball, a team of amputees that plays stand up basketball.
Amp 1 will divide into two squads and play in men’s Division III.
“It has special meaning to me to be able to come back and show people what I’ve become,” said Vincent, who works as a chef in Fort Worth, Texas. “Obvioulsy there’s always doubters when you have a disability.”
Vincent said Amp 1’s goal is to “spread the message to kids to never give up.” They will appear at the Kids’ Clinic and Hoopla Hoop Camp.
Hoopla games are played to 35 points or a 25-minute time limit, whichever comes first. All games include referees.
Unruh estimates that 40,000 spectators will fill the streets of downtown Salem this weekend for Hoopla. If you’re looking for Unruh, he’ll be wearing a red Hoopla shirt and will be spending most of his time on the main sports court.
“Immediately after the event I start thinking about how we can improve it for next year,” Unruh said. “The last three months it’s been around the clock.”
ghorowitz@StatesmanJournal .com, (503) 399-6726 or twitter.com/ghorowitz
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10 a.m. to noon: Free Kids’ Clinic
6 p.m. to 8 p.m.: 2-on-2 tournament at Salem Convention Center
9 a.m. to 2 p.m.: Hoopla Hoop Camp featuring Hall of Fame coach Gordie James
10 a.m. to 4 p.m.: 3-Point Shootout qualifying rounds; Skills Challenge qualifying
7:45 a.m.: Hoopla opening ceremonies
8 a.m. to 8 p.m.: 3-on-3 tournament competition
9 a.m. to 2 p.m.: 3-Point Shootout; Skills Challenge
9 a.m. to 3 p.m.: Free-Throw Contest; Hot Shot Contest
3:30-4:15 p.m.: 3-Point Shootout Finals
4:25-5:10 p.m.: Slam Dunk Contest
5:10-5:30 p.m.: Skills Challenge Finals
8 a.m. to 6 p.m.: 3-on-3 tournament competition
Results: Go to StatesmanJournal.com during the tournament for a link to live results. Also, see StatesmanJournal.com for updates throughout the event.
Twitter: Follow the hash tag #Hoopla at Twitter.com for updates.
Facebook: Find stories, photos and videos at Facebook.com/sjsports.
Videos/photos: See StatesmanJournal.com/sports for an interview with Hoopla tournament director Jason Unruh, photo galleries and videos.