MARSHALL – Thirty high school teams are competing in the fourth annual Drake Bigler Memorial Invite today in Marshall.
The first games of the day tip off at 8:45 a.m. with games running all day at Marshall High School and at Southwest Minnesota State.
The tournament is hosted by the Southwest Minnesota Stars AAU program and teams come from southwestern Minnesota, eastern South Dakota and northwestern Iowa.
The tournament was named after Drake Bigler, the five-month-old son of Brad and Heather Bigler who was killed in a 2012 drunk driving collision.
“We are thankful to the Southwest Minnesota Stars program for using Drake’s name to help improve awareness for drunk driving,” Brad Bigler said. “I am thankful for Ross and Ryan’s relationship being more than just basketball. They do things the right way and it is an honor to have them use Drake’s name to make a difference.”
A portion of the event proceeds will be donated to the Drake Bigler Memorial Fund.
Stars director Ryan Reitsma says Bigler and SMSU have been a great supporter of the Stars over the years, which includes letting the program use SMSU facilities for player development and team practices.
“My brother Ross approached Brad about naming this tournament after Drake,” Reitsma said. “At the time, we wanted to simply wanted to help remember Drake and help give a reminder to young people of how important it is to make solid choices and to understand the potential impact of choices you make every day on the lives of others. Hopefully running a tournament named after Drake for years to come will generate reminders for people directly outside of the Marshall and SMSU communities who are familiar with Brad and Heather’s story.”
Many of the players who are in the Stars program will be playing in today’s tournament.
In addition to three Marshall teams, other schools participating include Jackson County Central, Mountain Lake Area, Sioux Falls Washington, Tracy-Milroy-Balaton, Russell-Tyler-Ruthton, Dawson-Boyd, Westbrook-Walnut Grove and Murray County Central.
“One unique thing is having many of our players compete with their high school team in one tournament on the same day, which allows them to support each other while playing on their high school team,” Reitsma said. “Directing and operating this tournament also gives us an opportunity to personally engage with high school coaches directly and get to know them as people who mentor players in our program.”
That relationship is something rare in AAU basketball.
For the Stars, they strive to be step in step with the high school coaches.
“We value relationships with high school coaches as we greatly appreciate their dedication and time invested into the lives of young men through coaching and mentoring,” Reitsma said. “Very few people fully understand and appreciate the dynamics of their role and investment they are making into their role of coaching. As a program, we work to be something that will supplement what high school coaches are working to accomplish in developing skills and solid basketball fundamentals, but also challenging them to be outstanding teammates.”
Price of admission is $7 for adults and $3 for children.