By Bill Choy
Triplicate Sports Editor
Tom Silvey still carries with him a memento of one of his fondest childhood memories.
In his briefcase is a certificate of completion for taking part in the 1972 Crescent City Jaycees 8th Grade Basketball Tournament while a student at Crescent Elk.
"It was a great honor for me," he said. "It was a big deal for me to be a part of."
Today, Silvey is one of the directors of the tournament and plays a key role in creating lifetime memories for the next generation of tournament participants.
"Being able to come back and help is really special for me," he said. "It's nice to make a lot of kids happy."
This year is a major milestone for the boys tournament as it celebrates its 40th anniversary.
The middle school tournament, which began with only eight teams, has exploded into a major event with 56 teams from Oregon and California.
It has also expanded to include a girls tournament, which occurs several months before the boys event.
The two-day tournament begins today at gyms throughout the area, from Del Norte High School to Crescent Elk.
A program with a complete list of games and events was included in the Thursday issue of The Daily Triplicate.
Event organizers say while it takes a Herculean effort from fellow Jaycees and members of the community to make the event a reality, it's all worth it to see kids with broad smiles on their face after completing the tournament.
And it's not just basketball teams that participate.
The event features cheerleading and mascots competitions, a poster contest, a hoop shoot event, and the crowning of the tournament queen from a group of tourney princesses.
This year's tournament chairman is Arman Gunnerson, who has been involved in the event for its entire 40-year history.
"He loves the kids and loves basketball and lives and breathes the Jaycees," said John Phillips, one of the tournament directors. "He's a good person. He does a lot for the kids and the community."
"I'm glad I've been around that long and have been able to help," Gunnerson said. "Forty years is a milestone ... I wouldn't be doing it if I didn't enjoy it so much."
Organizing the tournament is a year-round proposition.
Silvey said work includes compiling a list of teams and narrowing it down, as well as setting up the brackets, which are broken up into several divisions.
Organizers also log a lot of miles to scout teams and narrow their list of squads to invite.
It also takes time to make the individual packets given to each team and to get the brackets just right, Phillips said.
He compared the selection of teams and setting up of brackets similar to the NCAA basketball tournaments.
Numerous volunteers from the Jaycees and the community help out.
This includes putting together the event guide and getting all the needed equipment for each gym.
"It's a big effort to get it done," Gunnerson said. "We always need a lot of help."
The event also is a perfect way to finish the season for the local teams that are automatically invited.
Matt Berry, head coach of the 8th grade A team at Redwood, said his team looks forward to the tournament each year.
"You get to face teams you don't normally see," he said. "It's a nice way to end the season.
"They (the Jaycees,) do a great job organizing it," Berry added. "It's a huge event for us because it's in our backyard. It's just a great tournament."
The importance of sportsmanship is a key component of the event.
The top honor given out is the team sportsmanship award.
Every player gets a certificate of completion, and countless trophies are handed out to try to make each child feel a part of something special.
Making sure everyone treats each other with respect is taken seriously by tournament officials.
If organizers see consistently poor sportsmanship at other tournaments or at the Jaycees tournament from coaches, players and fans, that team will not be asked to come back, which has occurred on more than one occasion
"We're old school," Phillips said. "It's not all about winning, it's about having fun."
"You can be 40-0 and if you don't show good sportsmanship you're not coming," he said.
Silvey says it's about finding a balance in choosing teams that will make the tournament competitive, but at the same time display good team play and sportsmanship
"It still has to be a competitive basketball tournament," he said.
The tournament also gives out scholarship money, this year $3,500 worth.
Trophies and certificates are handed out Saturday evening.
"That's the highlight for me," Gunnerson said. "That's when you see all the kids' faces. It makes it all worth it."
Phillips encourages the community to come and be part of the event.
"You just got to see it," he said. "You get to see great basketball and kids having fun."