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Record draw for Singler's sixth annual tourney

When you put on a basketball tournament centered around a family atmosphere, several things can happen.

Teams who have played in your tournament will most certainly want to keep coming back, and they'll make sure to tell their friends.

There will also come a time when you'll need to rely on those people you call family a little more than others.

All of those elements will be in play this weekend here in the Rogue Valley with the sixth annual Kyle Singler Southern Oregon Open, a youth basketball tournament developed by the aforementioned as his senior project at South Medford High and carried on through his years at Duke University and now as a professional in Spain.

The tournament features a record 80 boys and girls basketball teams in sixth through eighth grades — 20 more than usual — and will be played Saturday and Sunday at Kids Unlimited, South Medford High, Central Medford High, McLoughlin Middle School and Sacred Heart School.

"It's still very much a unique tournament and we're proud of that," said Ed Singler, Kyle's father and one of many relatives called upon each year to help make the event possible.

Responsibilities with his Real Madrid basketball team will keep Kyle Singler away from the tournament for the first time this year but younger brother E.J. Singler, a standout basketball player in his own right for the University of Oregon, will take over duties as the tournament's ambassador. E.J. Singler also will put on his fourth annual skills clinic on Saturday night, an event he created as part of his senior project while at South in 2009.

"This is the first year that Kyle will not have been here and he feels very bad about that," said Ed Singler. "The tournament means a lot to him and he takes a lot of pride in being involved in all of it so heavily as he has in the past but he's still playing and (Real Madrid) starts tournament play in the next couple days."

Even with the reality that Kyle Singler wouldn't be on hand for the first time, it didn't stop teams from flocking to the area to be part of the tournament, which benefits Kids Unlimited, a youth enrichment center located in Medford at 821 N. Riverside Ave.

"So many teams here in the last couple years have continued to make it a tradition, so much so that it's kinda begun to sell itself," said Tom Cole, executive director at Kids Unlimited. "I don't know if that's typical of tournaments, in general, that after a certain amount of years they start to have their own life but that's what we're experiencing."

Of those 80 teams, Cole said only 10 represent the immediate area and the 70 others range from as far north as Washington and down south around the Bay Area.

"So many kids and teams have grown up now making this a signature event for their programs that they just want to continue to be part of it," said Cole. "It's a huge difference from the very first year when we were sketching things on notebook paper and scheduling 19 teams in what seemed like a minor miracle at that time when it was just Kyle and I. Each year the tournament has become a little more sound thanks to the efforts of the entire Singler family and definitely when Lithia became a sponsor with the tournament in its second year and enhanced the overall quality and professionalism of it all."

Kyle Singler will still have his stamp on this year's event after designing the tournament's logo for a sixth time. All participants get a free T-shirt with his artwork, this time with a more global feel thanks to his participation overseas in Spain after signing there instead of with the Detroit Pistons, who drafted him with the 33rd overall pick in last year's NBA draft.

"Each year he's done a piece of artwork of where he's at and what he's into at the time," said Cole, "and this year he has a world image with a sketch outline of his face on the T-shirt, it's really nice. Each year he has done something that I think is reflective of his passion for art and indicates where he's at with his travels and where basketball has taken him and it just shows how much he truly cares and is willing to put into the tournament."

As such, the usual Cota-Singler Auction that accompanies the tournament's festivities has been rescheduled for July 27 so Kyle Singler has an opportunity to be on hand.

"Part of the reason for that is we just felt that it was important for Kyle — and it was important for him, too — to be at one of the events and we just felt it would be more doable for him to make the auction if it were in July," said Ed Singler.

The Dinner of Champions this year will take place at South Medford High beginning around 6 p.m. Saturday, featuring Mexican cuisine, and will be facilitated by E.J. Singler. A specially taped message from Kyle Singler will also be shown prior to the skills clinic, which will also include a highlight video of E.J. Singler's exploits at Oregon and possibly the assistance of a Duck teammate or two.

The clinic will be followed by a raffle of 10 to 15 items for the kids on hand.

E.J. Singler wrapped up his junior campaign in March as the second-leading scorer for the Ducks, who went 24-10 and advanced to the NIT quarterfinals. The 24 wins was the most for the program since the 2006-07 season, and the 6-foot-6 forward averaged 13.6 points and 2.2 assists to go with a team-best 5.6 rebounds. E.J. Singler was a second-team all-Pac-12 Conference selection and one of the nation's leaders in free throw percentage (.909, 110-of-121).

The bulk of the funds raised for Kids Unlimited, according to Cole, go toward scholarships for youth who may not otherwise have the opportunity to play basketball in its various leagues as well as helping to subsidize Kids Unlimited's after-school programs.

Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, khenry@mailtribune.com, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry