By Kris Henry
Posted May. 7, 2015 at 2:00 AM
Updated May 7, 2015 at 12:03 PM
Surrounded by family, friends and more than a few admirers freshly released from their VIBES Charter School classrooms at Kids Unlimited, Kyle Singler’s comfortable smile said it all Wednesday.
“It’s good to be back home,” he said. “I’ve been missing it for a while.”
The 6-foot-8 NBA figure may have dwarfed all those who begged for his attention but, for Singler, it’s what this community continues to give back to him that makes him feel like anything he contributes only pales in comparison.
“There’s nothing like being back home in Medford,” added Singler, who turned 27 on Monday.
Fresh off an unusual season that saw Singler move from his third year in the starting lineup for the Detroit Pistons to a midseason trade to the Oklahoma City Thunder, Singler is back for his annual pilgrimage on Mother’s Day weekend to take part in an event he started when he was a senior at South Medford High School
The ninth annual Singler Southern Oregon Open will open with exhibition games Friday night and conclude with championship contests on Sunday. In all, a record 191 boys and girls basketball teams, ranging from the fifth grade to high school varsity levels from Oregon, Washington and California, will compete on 19 courts throughout the Medford area during the three-day event.
All proceeds from the tournament benefit Kids Unlimited, which is a community organization founded on the ideal of assisting youths so that they may empower themselves and better their community.
“It’s a big thing for the Rogue Valley to have someone in his position to continue to come back and do something like this,” said Kids Unlimited Executive Director Tom Cole. “It’s a big thing for Kids Unlimited but it’s also become the largest youth sporting event in all of Southern Oregon with the number of teams that are now participating in this.”
“With Kyle and his family being so involved and the hospitality they’ve created around the event each year,” added Cole, “it’s become something more than just being at another tournament.”
Last year’s Singler Southern Oregon Open had an estimated overall impact to the city of more than $600,000, with proceeds used to build a playground and provide for other improvements for the VIBES Charter School, as well as fund summer camp scholarships at Kids Unlimited.
“It’s just great to have a reason to come back that benefits the community like this does,” Singler said. “To see what this tournament has become, I’m super proud of it. It’s really cool to see the growth of the tournament.”
For their efforts, Singler and Cole are set to be honored Monday by receiving the Chamber of Commerce’s 2015 Mayor’s Award. The honor goes to the organization that made a significant economic impact related to tourism in our valley over the past year.
Exhibition games will begin at 5:30 p.m. Friday at Central High School in Medford, with 24 teams playing 12 games as Singler mixes with those on hand while doling out prizes and likely posing for a myriad of photos.
Younger brother E.J. Singler, who has also been a fixture of the tournament over the years, will not be on hand this year since he’s playing basketball overseas in Estonia.
Official games start at 8:30 a.m. Saturday with games at South Medford, North Medford, Central, St. Mary’s and Crater high schools, Kids Unlimited and McLoughlin, Hedrick and Scenic middle schools.
Besides making his way around to the different tournament venues, Singler also will be appearing at the Medford Dutch Bros. stand at 614 E. Main from 3-4 p.m. Friday to help create awareness for another benefit for Kids Unlimited. All 19 Jackson County Dutch Bros. will donate proceeds from Mother’s Day sales to Kids Unlimited, and everyone who purchases a large beverage Sunday will receive nine of the 10 required stamps on their Dutch Bros. loyalty card.
Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry