“The DNA of basketball is in our city:” Gus Macker returns to Flint

FLINT, Michigan -- Linnell Jones-McKenney played in some of the first Gus Macker basketball tournaments in Michigan in the 1970s.

“Linnell camped out in my mom’s backyard,” said Scott McNeal, who founded the tournament with his brothers in 1974, in a press conference announcing that the tournament is coming back to Flint for the first time in nearly two decades September 18-19 in downtown Flint.

Trailblazing is nothing new for Jones-McKenney, who is the first woman from Flint to ever play professional basketball. Now, she’s the program director at Sylvester Broome Empowerment Village and worked to bring Gus Macker basketball back to the city.

“The most important thing in life is to give kids the opportunity to dream,” Jones-McKenney said.

The Broome Empowerment Village, the city of Flint, the Flint and Genesee Chamber of Commerce, and other partners are sponsoring the tournament. The tournament is 3-on-3 style (teams include four players, so there’s one substitute per roster) with age divisions ranging from as young as seven all the way through to adults. Each team plays at least three games and the tournament is double-elimination. 

The COVID-19 pandemic paused Gus Macker tournaments for 20 months, but the organization had their first tournament since the pandemic started in May. 

The symbolism of bringing a large tournament back to a city with Flint’s basketball history is significant. 

“The DNA of basketball is in our city, and we’re all a reflection of that,” said Eric Woodyard, a Flint native and a sports reporter for ESPN.

“This speaks to the true nature of who this community is and how we’re recognized (through basketball) all over the country,” said Flint Mayor Sheldon Neeley.

Registration for teams is open now and available online
Enjoy this story? Sign up for free solutions-based reporting in your inbox each week.

Read more articles by Patrick Hayes.