By Joanna Chadwick
MAYB founder Greg Raleigh has been working on schedules, schedules and more schedules for this weekend’s summer national tournament, which starts Thursday and ends on Sunday.
There’s nearly 900 boys and girls basketball teams, with the boys playing in the Wichita area and the girls in Oklahoma.
It’s a ton of schedules.
“There’s never a perfect schedule,” said Raleigh, who will be in Oklahoma to oversee the girls tourney. “… We try to take people’s requests and try to help them out. Try to piece it together. If there’s any problems, just blame me.
“And when we get to the weekend, we have to have tons of good help — and we do. The last couple years it’s gotten crazier, going through all the Covid stuff. Everyone seems on edge. We try to have supervisors everywhere.”
The supervisors are especially critical because they can defuse situations. Like many tournaments, MAYB has had problems with fans, players and coaches.
“We banned more people this year than we ever have,” Raleigh said.
With teams coming from multiple states, it’s an opportunity for players to face new and often tougher opponents. The goal is to win, but it’s a tough tourney to triumph in.
“Everybody is about a college scholarship anymore,” Raleigh said. “When I would take my high school kids to play, I wanted them tired by the end of the weekend, to play good competition, have fun and respect the game.
“It’s not all about who’s signing a college scholarship. I get tired of stuff like that. Sure, we’re playing for a win, but if you lose, you have to learn to lose, too.”
Raleigh started MAYB, which is in its 29th year and has more than two decades of national tourneys, as a way to give his own players who wanted to play offseason basketball more opportunities.
At the time there were only AAU tournaments available, so teams would travel to Kansas City to play in qualifiers. If you got beat, you went back home and had to come back the next weekend.
“It wasn’t convenient,” he said. “Now I coached pretty darn good players, but our kids weren’t big-time star players. They were kids who loved basketball.”
It started as a summer tournament with 69 teams, and then it grew.
“After a few years, I started thinking that we could find people in other states that want to do the same thing,” he said. “It’s changed a little bit, but it was built around the in-school programs.
“I never expected it to be what it is. It’s kind of fun to see what it has become.”
There’s 170 tournaments with 3,700 teams in 27 states.
Raleigh resigned from coaching the Hesston boys following their second straight Class 3A title and third in a decade. He had more than 400 career wins.
“I’ve been blessed in Hesston with great kids, and I’m not just talking basketball,” he said. “I had people who loved being on the basketball team, they were good friends with each other and they’d buy in.”
He had another outstanding team that won 3A in March.
“The class that just graduated was pretty special,” Raleigh said. “They contributed since they were freshmen. I had a class of kids that will be seniors this year that could repeat again. It’s a really good class. They paid their dues sitting behind those kids.”
Raleigh watched those Hesston players in their first MAYB tournament this year.
“They beat SE-Saline and I had some pangs — ‘did I make the right decision?’ But Garrett Roth, my freshman coach, he stepped right in and took over the head coaching job. It will be OK. They will do well,” Raleigh said.
His goal now is to watch his grandkids, as well as teams coached by his friends.
But that’s down the line. Right now he’s got to get through an incredibly busy weekend of basketball spread out over two states.
“And when we get to the end of the day Sunday, you sigh and you want to say, ‘we put on quite a show,'” Raleigh said.