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2011 NYSPHSAA Tournament Dates: March 18-20
NYSPHSAA - Jones Boys (News)
Tourney - a pilgrimage for some
By Reggie Beehner, Post Star Staff Writer

GLENS FALLS--for basketball fans, the weekend's high school championships is reason enough to make the trek to Glens falls. But for a group of basketball fanatics entrenched in their favorite section of the Civic Center, the tournament is the stage for something bigger, something monumental.

It's the stage for the crowning of Mr. Basketball Jones.

The title was dreamed up by a group of fervent fans from around the state who have been attending the State Tournament since its revival in 1978. The group member who can predict the results of the tournament with the most accuracy is awarded the honorific title of Mr. Basketball Jones.

"It started out as something of a joke" said Brian Haessig, the group's founder. "But now it's become something of a monster."

The group, founded 23 years ago in Rochester, the site of the first state basketball championships since the 1940s, has grown into a full-fledged circus of basketball prognosticians and late night hijinks. Basketball, while still the main subject of the group's attention, faces competition from local pubs, primarily Sandy's Clam Bar on South Street.

Haessig, a fifth-grade teacher and former basketball coach in Oswego, made the trip to the tournament in 1978 with a handful of coaching friends.

"We watched so many games that year -- about 16 in three days -- that we said we had a case of the 'basketball jones'," he said, borrowing the title of a Cheech and Chong song.

The nickname stuck and, before long, it began serving as the group's official title.

Haessig said "hoop fans and plain basketball junkies" comprise the group which has not missed a single state high school basketball championship since the first year in Rochester. In the years following -- three in Rochester and 20 in Glens Falls -- Haessig mailed a newsletter to the groups' members during the runup to the tournament to keep the interest up.

"We're coaches or teachers, but still a lot of people didn't know the teams," he said. "So I try to find articles from the newspaper on the teams so we're more familiar with them."

Much of the newsletters' content consists of "goofy stuff," he said, he still finds enough material to fill eight pages as often as six times a year.

The group has grown steadily over the years. Friends informed other friends, fathers told sons.

This year's group has 45 members, all men, no women are allowed.

"Yeah, it's a guy's getaway," Haessig said. "A lot of us did this before we were married and we told our wives that we'd still be doing this."

And tradition plays a heavy role in the group's schedule. For one, they insist on the same seating each year -- section M, which is only 2 seats wide, bounded by a railing.

"That way no one walks in front of you," Haessig said.

The seats are so prized in the group's eyes that when the tickets go on sale, Haessig will often make the 188-mile drive from Oswego to Glens Falls to ensure no one claims them ahead of him.

The group's ranks have swelled in recent years. So much so that Haessig has taken to collecting the money for the tickets well in advance, so no one backs out.

"I've had to learn the hard way," he said. "I've had to eat a few tickets in the past."

This year, the group will spend more than $1,500 on tickets, Haessig said.

Also this year, the group decided to select its top 25 New York State high school players of the century.

"Since there were so many lists this year, for the century and all, we decided we'd do one of our own," Haessig said. The list holds the names of stars such as Sam Perkins, Christian Laettner, Mark Jackson and Kenny Anderson, all of whom have played at the Civic Center.

The group's members range in age from the mid-20s through mid-50s, Haessig said, and they plan to continue coming to the tournament.

"As long as the interest is still there, I'll keep organizing the trips," he said.
(Reprinted with permission from a 2001 issue of The Post Star Tournament Section)
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