Twenty years ago, a 3-on-3 basketball tournament was held to raise funds for new basketball uniforms at St. Joseph Catholic Church and School in Waconia.
This Nickle Dickle Day, the St. Joe’s 3-on-3 tournament will celebrate its 20th year of fundraising for the school in an event that draws nearly 100 teams from all over the Midwest.
Dave Philp, creator of the tournament, saw a need for new uniforms in 1993 when his son was a fourth grade basketball player at the school. When he asked the school if the current uniforms could be upgraded, Philp was told the money simply was not available. So he thought, what about a fundraiser?
He took his 3-on-3 basketball tournament idea to the Waconia Chamber of Commerce and “they gave it the green light, kind of a ‘good luck’ thing,” he said.
That first year, the tournament drew 35 teams. Now, there are different divisions for grades and genders to help divide the nearly 100 teams that enter annually.
“Since we’ve started it, it’s built to be one of the larger [tournaments] in Minnesota,” Philp said. “We’re pretty proud of it. I think it’s pretty cool.”
Between 150 and 200 games are played in five hours on 11 courts across the St. Joe’s campus. In the beginning, Philp remembers driving around town and asking residents to borrow their basketball hoops. Eventually, partially from the success of the tournament, St. Joe’s was able to buy its own hoops.
The games are played to 15 points, or 20 minutes, whichever comes first. Each team is guaranteed two games.
Philp said it’s the people that make the tournament such a hit.
“I think the reason it’s successful is because of the consistency of sponsors and volunteers,” he said.
The winners of each division get medals and ribbons, but it’s not the physical prizes that are cherished most.
“It’s a lot of bragging rights,” Philp said.
New for 2013 is the addition of a three-point shoot out and a slam dunk contest, both of which will begin at 6 p.m. after the tournament in the gymnasium. Participants can also enter a drawing to be the person to take a shot worth $1,000.
Throughout the last 20 years, Philp said the event has become as much of a “friend”-raiser as it is a fundraiser for St. Joe’s.
While the 6th-9th grade teams remain the most popular age groups to enter the tournament, Philp has also seen an increase in the 18+ divisions of players that continue to return year after year.
“It’s always fun to see the consistency of the kids that come back,” Philp said.
Always run in conjunction with Nickle Dickle Day, the 3-on-3 tournament draws teams from South Dakota, Iowa, and Wisconsin and has had a few big names participate. Some have gone on to play at the collegiate level, which includes Joe Drapcho, a 17-year participant of the 3-on-3 tournament.
Drapcho, now 24, began playing when he was eight years old and hasn’t missed a year since, despite playing high school basketball at Waconia and at Minnesota State during college.
As third graders eager to participate, Drapcho and his friends had to compete at the fourth and fifth grade level.
The original team was called 3 Joe’s and a Sam for Joe Drapcho, Joe Rosholt, Joe Timm, and Sam Cousin. When Rosholt moved to Watertown a few years later, the name changed to the Nickle Dickle Legends, which continues to this day.
Although the team, which has also had Nick Sudheimer and Kevin Ebert as members, has only won the tournament three or four times, Drapcho said there’s nothing that can stop the team from coming back year after year.
“It’s fun to see everyone again and now it’s become a tradition,” he said. “The other guys have come from out of state multiple years to play, and Joe Timm almost came back home from Singapore this year to play.”
Timm is not coming back from Singapore this season, however, so the team has a new member hungry for a championship.
“Look out for the Nickle Dickle Legends to make a deep run this year,” Drapcho said.
Drapcho is nothing but supportive of the unique Nickle Dickle Day tournament.
“There are a lot of bragging rights on the line,” he said. “It’s a fun tradition that is unique to Waconia and something that is looked forward to every year.”
Contact Melissa Marohl at [email protected]