Hoops of Fire Basketball Tournament meshes brotherhood and camaraderie
By MarKeith Cromartie
Marcus Dupree has been playing in the Hoops of Fire basketball tournament for a decade and he doesn’t intend to stop for as long as the event continues.
The event means too much to the community and quality of life, said Dupree, a former college basketball player who heads up the Dupree Franchise team.
“It makes me feel good to be a part of this,” said Dupree. “Throwing this tournament helps get young men off the streets. Even if it’s for one to two days, it gives them something to look forward to.
“This tournament is big because most guys spend year-round prepping for this.”
The Hoops of Fire tournament has been a staple in the community for more than 20 years. Most of the eight teams in the weekend competition at Walker/Ford Center are regulars in a men’s summer league, which was ranked the seventh-most competitive by USAToday more than 20 years ago.
The Hoops of Fire tournament started with the vision of Wayne Pye, a basketball enthusiast who simply wanted to compete. At the same time, he wanted to give back to his hometown.
“I started this 20 years ago, when I played in the city league,” said Pye. “We didn’t have the championship format but it was always competitive.”
The tournament draws competitors from throughout Florida and Georgia. Each team pays an entrance fee of $300; however, the players say they aren’t in it for the money.
They say it’s about the competition and an opportunity to prove who is the best.
This year’s tournament kicked off when Pyes’ team, The Pye Express took on Georgia Boyz in a fast paced high energy game that set the tone for the rest of the tournament. Georgia Boyz went on to capture the championship by defeating The DCJ All-Stars in a very competitive game.
Pye has established a family -oriented culture through the tournament, with events such as the hula hoop contest. He invites several children out of the crowd and whoever else can hula hoop the longest, with the winner receiving a cash prize.
One of the positives about the tournament is that Pye gives a scholarship each year. He raises the $300 award through entry fees that each team pays to participate. Jasmine Jones, a FAMU DRS senior on the Baby Rattlers basketball team, was this year’s recipient.
“We do this to help them matriculate in college a little,” said Pye “Every little bit helps.”
Pye’s son, Travis, has assisted with the mission through the years that his father has been at the helm.
“I still do it because I love the game of basketball,” he said.
Players like Dupree come out with a sense of purpose.
“This is our March Madness,” he said. “This is our Super Bowl. This is our NBA Finals. It’s a lot of guys who want to play on the professional level but can’t and this is their getaway.”
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