When the thought first came to him, Derek Kurnitsky was skeptical about creating a middle school basketball tournament.
Once the idea spread among this basketball coaching peers, Kurnitsky was stunned by the response.
“I was thinking about a four team tournament and wondering if I could get that many teams,” Kurnitsky said. “After I started talking to coaches it just kind of took on a life of its own. We have 12 teams coming and we probably could have gotten twice that number.
“No one else is doing a middle school tournament in Northwest Florida. We did one last year and with the consolidation of the high school and middle school this year we wanted to do something to make the junior high standout.”
The result is a day of junior high boys and girls hoops that will begin at 9 a.m. ET this Saturday in “The Dome” at Port St. Joe Jr./Sr. High School.
The final game will tip off around 6 p.m. ET.
The cost of entry is $5 for a full day pass.
“We have eight boys’ teams and four girls’ teams,” Kurnitsky said. “It’s all day basketball. We are excited. We have teams coming from all over.”
Teams from Port St. Joe, Wewahitchka, Marianna, Carver (Dothan), Franklin County, Chipley, Riversprings and Tolar will be competing in the tournament.
Brackets can be found by going to www.facebook.com/PSJHoopFest and there will be contest giveaways during the day.
There will be lunch time fish fry with baked beans and Cole slaw for $6.
Trophies and plaques will be awarded.
“I hope this takes off,” Kurnitsky said. “I see this as being an annual event. And it is all for the children. All the money goes to the children, 100 percent of the profits, so who wouldn’t want to raise money for the children.”
Kurnitsky said his varsity players for the coming season will be working the tournament, performing tasks from taking tickets to sweeping the floor between halves and games.
The tournament also continues to lay the foundation Kurnitsky began pouring shortly after arriving in Port St. Joe nearly a decade ago to create a seamless feeder system for his program.
There are summer programs for three age groups and the emphasis the PSJ Hoops Fest provides the middle school players.
“Building a feeder system is a constant, it never ends,” Kurnitsky said. “All the varsity guys will be involved. I want them to understand the value of hard work and as educators that is what we are supposed to be doing.”
The PSJ Hoop Fest is sponsored by the Gulf County Tourist Development Council, Centennial Bank, Coast2Coast and Harmon Realty.