Some 20 teams will play this weekend at the Evan "Shoot" Medina Memorial Basketball Tournament.

The seventh annual Evan “Shoot” Medina Memorial Basketball Tournament returns to Sanger on June 29. 

The event features 20 teams, 10 girls and 10 boys. Play starts at 9 a.m. and championship games are scheduled for the top girls teams at 4 p.m. and the top boys teams at 4:30 p.m. Two courts will be set up in the Coach Dean Nicholson Gym at Sanger High and another in the small gym.

“This year we’ve got a wide variety of teams from all over the Valley,” said organizer Al Medina. “We’re trying to make this the biggest one of all of them.”

It’s been about seven years since Evan Medina’s death on the outskirts of Sanger in a car accident. Medina said after Evan died Sept. 6, 2012, about 100 referees showed up to his funeral to pay their respects. And the tournament has become a way to see each other, albeit briefly since everybody is officiating.

The younger Medina was an up-and-comer in the regional referee world when he died, as well as a former basketball player for Sanger’s Apaches.

This year, the tournament features something a little different for the referees. The event serves as a master class for young referees and a place where established referees get a chance to learn the latest regulations. Medina, a longtime referee who says he’s still got several years officiating games, said there is a distinct need for people interested in putting on the black and white vertical striped shirts and getting on the court.

In the small gym this year, Medina said junior college and college referees will be performing their own training of the younger officials. Overall, the event is expected to draw between 40 and 50 refs. The small gym will be run by veteran officiator Bob Kayajanian. “He’s the one who brought our association into the 21st century,” Medina said. “He’s the one who did it all.”

Medina referred to the San Joaquin Valley Officials Association, which has been working to provide enough referees to the surrounding school districts for all the games in the region. He said the task has become additionally difficult as the association’s average age continues to climb. “All of us old guys are cutting back,” Medina said. “I’m only reffing three days a week.”

The trending decline in available and trained referees is statewide, he said. “Times are changing.”

The association continues to recruit, but because of need many young refs are thrown in to consequential games before they’re ready.

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