ISHPEMING - Thanks to his networking and proficiency with Facebook, Ryan Reichel is making a big splash with the inaugural Westwood Holiday Alumni Basketball Tournament to be held this weekend.
Two courts in the Westwood High School gym will be buzzing with play for more than 12 hours a day Saturday and Sunday as 26 teams of former Upper Peninsula high school players will square off.
The majority of the 17 men's and nine women's teams are from Marquette County high schools, though others will come from as far away as Carney-Nadeau and Jeffers.
"We figured this would be a good weekend to hold the tournament, with a lot of people coming home for the holidays, but with fewer holiday parties going on," said Reichel, the Westwood's boys varsity basketball coach.
Any proceeds made at the event will help fund the Patriots boys basketball program, he added, with an admission charge of $2 per day for adults and free for students high school age and younger to come watch games that start at 9 a.m. each day. The last tipoff each night is scheduled for 8 p.m.
"I have a good network of people I know, and with Facebook, it just grew from there," Reichel said about gathering so many former players in the tourney's first year.
If you go:
What: Westwood Holiday Alumni Basketball Tournament, featuring teams representing schools throughout Marquette County and beyond.
When: Saturday and Sunday. Games starts at 9 a.m. each day with final tip offs each night scheduled for 8 p.m.
Where: Westwood High School
Cost: $2 per day for adults and free for students high school age and younger
"I'm still getting calls from places like Green Bay and we have a player, Jason Boucher (1998 C-N graduate), coming from a pro league in Europe to play here."
Reichel himself is a member of Westwood 1, one of three Patriots men's teams, along with his brothers Jeremy and Bobby. The team also sports 2013 graduate T.J. Swanson and 1998 star Boone Bell for some size inside.
Players are assigned to teams from the high school they attended, though those who are currently coaching at another U.P. school have the option to play with that team, too.
The men's side is split into A and B divisions, and trophies will be awarded to the top two teams in each of the three divisions, T-shirts to winning team members, and a Yooper Shirts hoodie to the MVP of each division.
Just a quick scan of players listed on rosters includes on the men's side Ishpeming's Ben Sager, Marquette's Joe Simon and Sean Geary, Negaunee's Mike O'Donnell, Jeffers' Steve Nordstrom, Republic-Michigamme's Tim Dillon and Jason Laxo, Munising's Kenya Oas and Superior Central's Dylan Johnson.
Among the women are Westwood's Sarah Stream, Negaunee's Courtney Waara, R-M's Courtney Holsworth and Marquette's Liana Storm.
First-round games Reichel said to watch are the men's game between Marquette and Ishpeming at noon on Saturday and a women's match between Westwood and Marquette at 3 p.m. on Saturday.