It has become such a part of the Upper Peninsula spring, we might take it for granted, just a bit.
But the Negaunee Invitational Basketball Tournament, being played for the 50th time this year, deserves a huge round of applause.
It started out small back in 1965, but the NIT has blossomed into an amazing event, drawing players and fans from around the peninsula over the course of several weeks and bringing in teams and supporters from around the Midwest for its Class A weekend, this year set for April 25-27.
The 45-and-older and Class B brackets both start tonight at Lakeview Memorial Gymnasium in Negaunee. The former features some great competition amongst people who might be a bit older, but still have game, while the latter features former college players from smaller schools, talented high school seniors and teams that are in first place in their industrial leagues, according to the NIT website.
Champions in those divisions will be crowned Sunday.
The parent group of the NIT - Negaunee Basketball Inc. - states its mission is "to promote adult recreational basketball and contribute to charity and youth-related programs."
It does those things incredibly well.
And the NIT's charity is important to the community as each year, it donates its proceeds to organizations like the Negaunee Public Schools, the Negaunee Irontown Association, the Negaunee Senior Citizens Center and the all-night party for the Negaunee graduating class. The NIT committee also has contributed scholarships to Negaunee High School students who are headed off to college.
The core group of directors may make it look easy, but these folks put many, many hours of work into helping the tournament happen. Volunteers doing everything from working the clock to selling concessions are vital to the NIT's success as well.
Fans who show up to watch the games are important, too, so those hankering for some good hoops action now that the NCAA's March Madness has concluded can visit Lakeview gym for some exciting games, knowing that in the long run, they are also supporting the community.
Again, we thank those who make the NIT a reality each year for all their efforts. We look forward to the next 50 years of the Negaunee Invitational Basketball Tournament.