The rest of the world had better watch out.
Bad Donkey, a 3-on-3 basketball team made up of Statesboro residents, has its sights set on the Hoopitup World Championship which tips off Saturday in Louisville, Ky.
Bad Donkey, put together by Wes Bonner and featuring the local talent of Bonner, Bill Bryan, Johnny Kalloniatis, Chaz Brewton, Travis Reddick and Miguel Wiggins, is primed to make a run in the tournament, which Bonner guesses will feature between 600-700 teams from around the world.
“It’s just a huge tournament,” said Bonner, who has participated in the World Championships several times and once had a team which placed second overall in its division. “They bring Canadian, Japanese, South American - there’s teams from Mexico – their best teams. They bring them in and there’s an international flavor. It’ll be big.”
Regional tournaments are held each weekend, usually one on the east coast and one on the west coast, and a team must earn a first- or second-place finish in one of the regionals in order garner an invite to the World Championships.
For Bad Donkey, that was no problem. The team qualified when it won the Final Four tournament in Indianapolis, which was held during the NCAA March Madness tournament.
Since then, the team has placed second in the Atlanta tournament and won first place again last weekend in Raleigh, N.C. outside N.C. State’s football stadium.
After some respectable finishes in 2009, Bonner is encouraged by the team’s successes in 2010.
“We played in multiple areas of the country and done well,” he said. “Last year we had a lot of final four tournaments and we didn’t win first or second. This year in every tournament we’ve won or come in second, so things have started to click a little bit.”
The team competes in Division 8, which features players no taller than six feet and at least 30 years old. The team sees a lot of talented players in its travels, but perhaps the biggest challenge is the venue. Games are played outside regardless of rain, shine or blistering heat.
Plus, there’s the officiating.
“It’s very physical,” Bonner said. “You do have a referee, who’s also the scorekeeper so he’s doing two things at once. It’s limited, and the refereeing is just, ‘no blood, no foul,’ so it’s pretty intense.”
Bonner has played in the league for 12 years, and shows no signs of slowing down.
“Not gonna quit until the wheels fall off,” he said.
This year, his team has gotten more respect as they’re leaving a tournament than they do when they arrive at one.
“We have a funny name,” said Bonner. “Our team name is Bad Donkey. I always say that by the time they’re done making fun of our name and the way we look, we’re heading home with the trophy. That’s the way I look at it.”
To go along with the team wins, Bonner has had some individual success at the events as well. Each event holds a free-throw and 3-point competition – each of which Bonner has won – as well as a slam dunk contest.
Despite the 6-foot height requirement of the division – which Bonner describes as loosely enforced – there’s dunking going on in their games.
Usually only once, though.
“People start fouling when they see that’s going to happen again,” laughed Bonner.
Saturday in Louisville, Bad Donkey will be joined by Orlando’s Deal with the Skill, a team which Bad Donkey has run into at a number of tournaments.
“We were bitter enemies but we kind of became friends,” he said. “Unless we’re playing each other, we cheer for each other.”
The schedule for the World Championships will be available Friday on the league’s web site, www.hoopitup.com.
Matt Yogus can be reached at (912) 489-9408.