The highlight of Drive’s year cultivates over a four day period, from Thursday to Sunday and it involves over 300 participants. Summer Jam is Almaty’s signature 3 v 3 tournament, and we are the primary sponsor as well as organizers. Planning for this event started long before Meg and I arrived, but from Day 1 we’ve had a hand in putting it together. To save money on shipping, Damian asked Meg to bring over a bag full of T-shirts, which will be handed out to every participant in Summer Jam. Using a massive duffle bag, Meg carried 70lbs of shirts, along with all her personal belongings, across the Atlantic. With all the preparation and work that went into this event, it is needless to say that us Drivers are excited for it to get under way.
Thursday and Friday, 10-11 July
We arrive at Gorky Park, home of the Summer Jam tournament, at 8AM. The games for the junior girls and boys are set to start at 10AM. Gorky Park is a public park with many hundreds of vendors renting space. It looks more like an pseudo amusement park, and in fact, they have water park and some rides.
Last year, Drive made an agreement with the park to redo the court and gained permission to add logos and advertisement on and around the court. Damian has had a hand in organizing the tournament for nearly a decade now, and as the motto goes, Summer Jam is “a 3v3 tournament for basketball players by basketball players.”
Two tents go up, tables are set, chairs are put in their place, scoreboards are taken out, extra courts are painted (actually done Tuesday), 500lb Spaulding frames are dragged out from storage and painstakingly put together, the court is power washed, and our Drive banners are hung all over. We start a bit late (as with everything that happens here!) but excitement is in the air and kids are having a blast, and that’s all we could ask for. Red Bull came to the kid’s portion of the tournament to DJ and play music for the games. We all had fun getting inside the car.
The first two days are for 3 divisions: 11-13 boys, 13-17 boys, and 13-17 girls. It’s hot out, but the nice thing about this tournament compared to the one at ADK is its not in the middle of a parking lot. There are trees everywhere and other things to do than just watch games. We have one Drive boys team entered, in the 11-13 division, but the three kids are ages 11, 10, and 9. Unforunately due to puberty and an opposing player who was arguably the Danny Almante of Summer Jam, they didn’t fair too well.
After the first day, I gave Chris a hair cut. Needless to say, it took about an hour to buzz his head with the first pair of clippers every made. Just kidding, but really, it took forever.
Saturday and Sunday, 12-13 July
It’s Day 3, and after spending two straight days at park watching game after game, I readily admit that I’m beat. However, it’s time for the Men’s and Women’s divisions to start so once games got going, it was easy to find energy and excitement for the weekend ahead.
It’s probably best to leave the pictures and videos do the talking, but by the end of Sunday, our women’s team made the semifinals and our guy’s team, which consisted of Damian, Rico, Zhomart, and Chris, won the tournament! Below, please see the link if you’re interested seeing pictures and videos from the day.
Below is a link for a short clip of one of Chris’s games.
The atmosphere of the men’s championship game was very cool. The women’s championship was similar, but not as many people.
Sunday Night, 13 July
While the tournament was a blast and was a wild success, the event following Summer Jam almost trumped the four-day extravaganza. As an organization, all Drivers went to Club Karaoke. With a four-hour reservation, we spent the night in a private room with a giant screen and speakers for karaoke, along with about a dozen pizzas. I’ll let the pictures give you a visual.
Click the link below for some video of Chris flexing the golden pipes.
Other Observations and Notes
- Saw two motorcycles on the highway the other day, one behind the other. No big deal right? Until you realize the guy in back had a rope tied around the guy in front and was getting pulled while his bike was off. Presumably, he had some mechanical difficulties.
- Got a free taxi ride the other day – guy instantly called his friend, and most likely the only that could speak English, so he could talk to us. Put him on speaker, when our friend Calvin yells into the phone, “MINYA ZAVUT CALVIN! (My name is Calvin!).” Our new friend’s friend responds softly and quietly, “Hi Calvin”. Maybe it was a you-had-to-be-there moment, but I’ll sum it up this way: The conversation didn’t exactly break the stereotype that Americans are loud and attention-seeking extroverts.
- Hosting literally the first girls only camp ever in Kazakhstan this week. Revolutionary and should be a tremendous experience. We have kids coming from all over and even as far as Astana (a 20 hour bus ride). More to come on this!