Amateur basketball tourney a family affair

For nearly as long as the North Dakota State Amateur basketball tournament has been around, one name has remained a constant as the competition has ballooned in popularity: Collins.

Jim Collins took over as the tournament’s executive secretary in 1982, 30 years after its origination. After 30 years at the helm, Collins passed the job on to his son, Scott, who is in his second year running the tournament.

Jim played in the tournament for a number of years and would have already been accepted into the hall of fame had he not refused the honor. He didn’t want to go into the hall of fame as the active executive secretary. Now that he has retired, Jim will be honored in the 2014 class along with Rollie Hochstetler, Terry Stargardt, Jeff Rust and Dean Gesellchen.

“It’s a pretty big job, but when you do it for a living, you’re just used to how things are supposed to run,” Scott Collins said. “It is a big thing when you start talking about the 14 or 15 gyms you use, two referees per gym per hour and the amount of scorekeepers and ticket takers and volunteers or just people that take care of your gyms. It’s a big deal.”

The inaugural year featured 16 teams over three classes playing in a single-elimination tournament. A lot has changed in 62 years as the tournament boasts anywhere from 150 to 180 teams in a given year with 10 divisions. This year features 153 teams playing a double-elimination format.

“We call ourselves the largest true amateur basketball tournament in the country and nobody’s ever debated us,” Scott Collins said.

Planning for a tournament of this caliber doesn’t happen overnight. Scott Collins said the board of directors begin renting out gym space two years in advance. The rosters are made closer to the start of the tournament, roughly two months before. A tournament this big relies on a large support group.

“I like to see all the people that come forward and help us,” Scott Collins said. “The biggest thing is we have guys that will step up every year to help us. The referees are a huge part. If you don’t have refs and scorekeepers, you don’t have games.”

He said there are moments where the job can be stressful, but nothing that makes it not worth it.

“You have to want to do this,” he said. “You have to enjoy it or you’ll drive yourself nuts with some of the things that come up.”

Brandt returns

to familiar surroundings

He may no longer live in Minot, but Jeff Brandt hasn’t forgotten where he grew up.

Brandt is back in town as the North Dakota State Amateur basketball tournament is in full swing. Two of the venues – Minot High and Minot State – provide him with fond memories of his basketball career.

Brandt led the Magicians to the state title during his senior season in 1999 and was named Mr. Basketball. He played the next three years at the University of North Dakota before playing his senior year at MSU. He received All-America honorable mention honors that season.

“You try not to get caught up in that and try to have fun now,” Brandt said. “You always think about how you used to play and all the stories. It’s kind of what this weekend is about, telling old stories and having fun, creating new memories.”

Brandt said this is his “ninth or 10th” year participating in the recreation tournament and enjoys every last second.

“It’s a fun time,” he said. “It’s one of the best times of the year. You get to see people you don’t always get to see. We have a good group of guys on our team wherever it is – Bismarck or Minot. You get together with them and just have fun for a weekend and play basketball.”

Brandt’s team, Bismarck Kinnebrew Contracting, posted an 83-50 victory over MAFB Minot Magic on Friday and followed that up with wins against Sports on Tap and Fargo Wick Edge, LLC. They’ll play for the Class A title today at 2:15 p.m. at the MSU Dome.

After his collegiate career finished, Brandt spent time in the banking industry at Edward Jones Investments before accepting a job as principal at Solen High School. He is also the boys basketball coach there.

“I think Bismarck is the nicest town in the state, but I miss the people in Minot because I had such a great experience in high school and college and grew up here, too. It’s changed a lot, but it’s nice to see all the people you saw when playing in high school and college.”

Former Mr. Basketballs in field

Jeff Brandt isn’t the only former Mr. Basketball in this year’s tournament.

Both Lucas Moorman and Cameron Malzer have also won the hardware as the state’s top boys basketball player.

Moorman, who plays for Nexus Innovations in the Commercial I bracket, won the award playing for Dickinson and played collegiately for North Dakota State. He was a starter on the 2009 team that advanced to the program’s first NCAA tournament appearance, losing to Kansas in the first round.

Cameron Malzer, a member of the eLending Now team, finished his career with 2,017 points and helped lead Turtle Lake-Mercer-McClusky to three straight district titles, two region titles and a second- and third-place finish at the state tournament. He became just the second Mr. Basketball to sign with Minot State directly out of high school.

Mike Kraft covers Minot High athletics, the Minot Minotauros and the Minot State men’s club hockey team. Follow him on Twitter @MKraft23_MDN.