NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Forty-one youth basketball teams from throughout the Northeast will converge on the area this weekend for a two-day AAU boys basketball tournament.
The second-annual War at the Border will feature 86 games played in four different gymnasiums in two states.
The action gets started at 8 a.m. Saturday morning and wraps up with a 9 p.m. tip off on Sunday evening.
And on Thursday the organizer was the picture of calm.
"Year one was a little shaky," Bennington, Vt.'s, Hunter Stratton said. "There were definitely some bumps in the road.
"I learned a lot of things. This year, I'm getting things more set in stone and organized and prepared. AAU tournaments, they're kind of like putting a puzzle together with scheduling and stuff."
Among the pieces that need to fit: making sure that different age-group teams from the same program are playing in the same location to allow their coaches to lead both squads and accommodating the travel concerns of teams coming from as far away as Rochester, N.Y., and Keene, N.H.
Of course, for a nascent tournament, these are pretty good problems to have, and Stratton is better equipped to handle them this year. He's so well equipped that he expects this year's tournament to go a little better for him personally.
"I'm hoping to have some time to actually relax and watch some games," he said.
There will be plenty of games for area basketball fans to take in this weekend if they want. Action will get under way Saturday at the North Adams Armory, Hoosac Valley Middle and High School in both gyms and Southern Vermont College.
Admission for the full weekend is $5.
The entry fee for teams is $250. Stratton says it is a bargain for a tournament that offers a minimum of four games.
"When you look at the online registry for tournaments, you'll see tournaments listed for $400, $495," he said. "Rarely will you see $300 even for tournaments that promise three games."
There is a simple reason he is keeping the costs down for this event.
"If I went out there now and said, 'We're gonna have this tournament for $400 with this guy no one knows about,' No one would come," he said.
Even after the considerable expenses of gym rentals and paying the game officials, Stratton still expects to make some profit on the event, and that money will go back into supporting his own AAU program, Team Not Even Famous.
The 21-year-old former standout at Bennington's Mount Anthony Union High School has been coaching AAU ball for three years. This year he went from working with the Capital District Raptors program in the Troy/Albany area to starting his own team.
Team Not Even Famous draws players from Mount Anthony, Troy High School, Albany Academy and about a half dozen other New York schools.
Despite its humble name, the team has compiled a 33-7 record this year and has picked up a couple of tournament titles.
"A lot of them knew each other but didn't know each other that well, but we had unbelievable chemistry," Stratton said.
As important as this weekend's competition is for Stratton and his team, he plans an even bigger event — the Battle of the Border — for July 19-20. That tournament will use gyms in seven different locations in Massachusetts, Vermont and New York.
That tournament — also marking its second year this year — has the potential to be really big, Stratton thinks.
"I want to build this tournament to where the bigger programs come and it gets more and more competitive," Stratton said. "At some point, I want it to be one of those tournaments the big-name AAU programs and college coaches know about."