Slamfest will celebrate 15th B-day this year

Friday, August 18, 2006

The annual event brings together more than basketball teams.

Fifteen years, still growing and perhaps more popular than ever.

That in a nutshell sums up Slamfest, Cape Girardeau's outdoor basketball tournament that makes its yearly run at Indian Park this weekend.

"It just keeps getting better and better," said LaTanya Thomas, one of the event's directors. "It's highly recognized throughout Southeast Missouri.

"Everybody knows Slamfest always happens the third weekend in August and a lot of people plan their schedules around it."

The 15th annual Slamfest officially begins 6:30 p.m. today with a gospel concert, although the actual games don't start until about 8 a.m. Saturday. Play also will begin Sunday morning at around the same time, with the championship scheduled for approximately 4 p.m.

"It should be another excellent tournament," Thomas said.

Slamfest was started by Scott Porter, who moved to Texas four years ago but has continued to be involved with the event. He never envisioned Slamfest getting as big as it has.

"Not even close," he said.

Porter was surprised when the first Slamfest attracted about 1,500 spectators. It has been a staple of outdoor basketball in Cape Girardeau ever since, annually attracting several thousand people for the weekend.

"It seems like it gets bigger every year," Porter said. "I never expected it."

What pleases Slamfest organizers perhaps the most is that, despite all the impressive basketball talent that annually shows up, the event is about much more than simply shooting hoops.

The tournament raises money for the House of Prayer Educational Youth Domestic Center in Cape Girardeau.

The event will have refreshment booths, carnival games for youngsters and plenty of entertainment by local choirs along with performers from out of town.

"It's always a really good family-type event, so if people are not interested in basketball they can take advantage of other things going on," Thomas said. "There is something for everybody."

Porter said more than $10,000 has been raised each of the last few years, and he anticipates reaching that figure again.

"It's all about community unity and bringing people together," Porter said. "We never have any problems. It's just a great event for the community."

The 10-team tournament always includes quite a few current or former collegiate players, and tournament organizers said the talent level should be as good or better than ever.

Two-time defending champion Ted Coalter Heartland Insurance of Cape Girardeau will try to make it three in a row. There will be several other local squads, along with teams from as far away as Columbia, Mo., and Champaign, Ill.

"Heartland Insurance will be back in full swing, but a lot of teams are trying to overthrow them," Thomas said, laughing. "They've kind of got a little dynasty going."

Slam-dunk, 3-point shooting and ball-handling contests will take place Sunday between games.

Tonight's gospel concert will feature artists and groups from different parts of Missouri, including Cape Girardeau, St. Louis and Poplar Bluff. There is no admission charge and the first 100 children in attendance will receive free back-to-school supplies.

"This always kicks off Slamfest and we expect a good turnout," said Stafford Moore Jr., who is organizing tonight's activities.

Added Porter: "We hope people will continue to come out and show their support for Slamfest. It's for a really good cause and everybody always has a lot of fun."

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