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Kyle Singler tourney continues to grow

From the mind-numbing puzzle of scheduling 240 basketball games to a deadline issue involving his tournament's self-designed logo, Medford native Kyle Singler isn't exactly kicking his heels up in his down time from Duke University.

Singler expects to be as busy as he is on game days for the Blue Devils throughout this week, culminating with the third annual Kyle Singler Southern Oregon Tournament Friday through Sunday at four local venues.

The 6-foot-9, 235-pound All-American forward will also be pulled back into action May 17 with the Cota-Singler Gala Auction Dinner at Main One Arts Center in Medford.

"There's a lot going on, but it's worth it," Singler said during a break Wednesday at Kids Unlimited. "I get a lot out of it. I'm able to design a T-shirt for the kids, so I'm actually doing art work, which I enjoy. I also take away a lot of things from the kids coming up to me because I know they're excited to be around for this."

Sixty teams in sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade boys and girls divisions will take part in this weekend's tournament, which benefits Kids Unlimited. Games are scheduled at South Medford High, Phoenix High, McLoughlin Middle School and Kids Unlimited beginning Friday night, with teams coming from as far away as the Sacramento area in California to throughout Oregon.

Tom Cole, executive director at Kids Unlimited, has done the lion's share in scheduling the event, but Singler has been in the mix all along as well.

"It's like one of those Sudoku puzzles," said the former South Medford High standout. "You get down to it and then you figure out one number doesn't work so you have to do it all over again."

Even with all that, Singler doesn't hesitate to throw in his hopes for the youth tournament's future.

"I want it to be bigger ... bigger and better," he said. "That's my philosophy about it."

This year's event will get an added twist with the E.J. Singler Skills Competition, put on by Kyle's younger brother as part of his senior project at South Medford. That is slated to take place from 6:30-8:30 p.m. Saturday at Kids Unlimited.

Another featured aspect is the Breakfast of Champions at 7:30 Sunday morning for the players, coaches and parents involved in the tournament. Through it all, Cole said that's where Singler truly shines.

"It was pretty emotional last year," said Cole. "Kyle got sentimental about it and the kids who were sitting in the stands got really sentimental about it, too. It just wrapped up the whole weekend of, yes, it's about basketball but it's also about a whole lot of other things."

Cole said he's been impressed with how diligent Singler and his entire family have worked to give back to the community ever since the tournament was his senior project.

"To Kyle's credit, how many college kids that are playing at the level that Kyle's playing at come back to their local communities and do something that is really giving back like this?" said Cole. "Probably not many."

The group also tried to lure Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski to town for this year's tournament, but Cole said family matters required him to stay closer to home. In lieu of being here, Cole said the legendary coach sent several items for the auction next weekend.

"I think he was proud that he's got some players who are doing things that are much bigger than basketball," said Cole of Coach K. "I think that's one of those things that makes the tournament unique, that there is somebody who's young and not selfish and is going to put his time into making something work. His family has obviously been a big part of this as well."

As Singler said, "If I know you, you're working" this weekend. It's been all hands on deck, with parents Ed and Kris Singler working to shore up the necessary volunteers needed for such a large tournament. Aunts, uncles, cousins and everyone in between have also played a part in the event.

"I get a lot of help," admitted Singler, who turned 21 on Monday.

Still, Singler said he's going to try to make appearances at each gym throughout the weekend.

"I'll be hopping around as much as I can," he said.

It's been that way the past two years, according to Cole.

"He's here all night Friday, all day Saturday and all day Sunday, talking to all the kids and parents," said Cole. "It's exhausting for him, it's not a vacation by any means."

It's also not something he would have any other way.

"I know people appreciate it, and that's one of the big reasons to do it," said Singler. "It's fun when it's all said and done. Looking back on it the past two years, there's been some good times and good stories, and it's good for Kids Unlimited. I think people really benefit from it, and that's all that matters."

Reach reporter Kris Henry at 776-4488, or e-mail khenry@mailtribune.com