The Southern Oregon Open has reclaimed its historical prominence after this year’s successful showing.
The region’s premier basketball tournament boasted 186 teams, representing boys and girls in grades 5-12, who played over Mother’s Day weekend to benefit Kids Unlimited. That number was nearly double the participants KU hosted in 2022, a rebuilding year from the pandemic’s disruption, said Executive Director Tom Cole.
“It was really satisfying to see that the tournament was back to where it had been prior to COVID,” said Cole.
The 15th annual event was projected to bring approximately $1 million in revenue to Southern Oregon through hospitality, according to local chambers of commerce, said Cole. Of teams competing, 165 traveled from out of the area — California, Nevada and elsewhere in Oregon.
“That’s a big number of people coming in, staying in hotels, eating in local restaurants,” said Cole. “It’s a proud showcase of facilities and hospitality.”
Eight gyms around the region, in addition to KU, accommodated the weekend’s games. Team registration fees and other funds raised all will benefit KU’s work to empower kids, regardless of background, with opportunities to succeed. KU’s services have risen along with the tournament’s growth — from 19 teams and $1,000 in revenue its inaugural year.
The event dates to 2007, when local basketball standout Kyle Singler designed it as his South Medford High School senior project. Supported by Singler’s family and “lifted” by younger brother EJ, said Cole, the tournament became a signature fundraiser with help from such local sponsors as Lithia and & Driveway. Singler went on to lead Duke University to an NCAA national title and played for seven seasons in the NBA.
“Impactful” for both KU and the community, the tournament illustrates the importance of volunteerism, said Cole, adding that this year’s event is a strong indicator that teams, along with players’ families, will return year after year.