VENTNOR — Twenty teams competed at the basketball court on Suffolk Avenue when Chuck’s three-on-three tournament started in 1989. Now, 30 years later, 80 teams will fill the gymnasium at the Ventnor Educational Community Complex for the last time at the final tournament July 21 and 22.
“It’s a little bittersweet,” said Doug Cakert, one of the tournament’s directors. “The fact that it made it 30 years is incredible. We’re very happy about that.”
The nonprofit tournament was created in memory of Cakert’s uncle Chuck, an avid school-yard player who died in the spring of 1989. Along with the Ventnor Recreation Department, Doug’s father, Buck, implemented the 3-on-3 game structure.
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The nonprofit tournament, which has spanned generations of players, was known for fostering a free-spirited, pick-up game atmosphere and grew into a beloved event in the community.
“They may not know who (Chuck) is, but they all know about the tournament and the spirit of the game,” he said.
After his father directed the event for 12 years, Cakert, 33, took over the tournament alongside his cousin Jonathan Cakert, 34, when they were just 16 years old.
“We didn’t want it to end because all our friends were still playing in it all the time. They all loved it,” Cakert said. “So we decided to take it over.”
Even without a driver's license, the cousins learned how to organize the tournament and soon took on full responsibility. Cakert said over the eighteen years directing, they have had about 60 to 70 teams participate each year.
“We’ve seen it grow,” Cakert said.
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Cakert said they also receive help from family members and volunteers. Robert Sutor, owner of Robert's Place, competed in the inaugural game, purchased shirts for the 80 participants and has remained the event’s primary sponsor.
All money raised from the program has gone back into the city sports programs, such as sponsoring a Ventnor child who couldn't afford to participate in a travel team, jackets for Ventnor Pirates champions, baseball bats for Little League, fixing up basketball courts and Ventnor All-Star donations.
This year, along with its unlimited age requirement and its student and adult divisions, the tournament will also feature an alumni division. Cakert said this league is another opportunity to celebrate the tournament’s expansive history.
“We just wanted to give everyone a chance who played in the earlier ones a shot to come back and play one last time,” Cakert said.