CEDAR FALLS — Jerry Slykhuis always wanted to bring a high-profile boys’ basketball tournament to the metro area.
While the tragic deaths of Jerry and his wife, Jane, in an automobile accident last December prevented Jerry from making that happen, his friends and colleagues picked up the ball and organized the Jerry Slykhuis Basketball Showcase that will bring several of the Midwest’s top high school programs together Dec. 15-16 at Cedar Falls High School.
The field features high-powered out-of-state programs from Bolingbrook (Ill.) High School, DeLasalle High in Minneapolis and Lee’s Summit (Mo.) Christian Academy, along with host Cedar Falls, perennial Iowa powerhouse Iowa City West and Dubuque Hempstead. In addition, Cedar Falls’ top-ranked girls’ team will square off against Ankeny Centennial.
“Jerry and I had talked about how great it would be to have something like this here,” said Keith Sandvold, the driving force behind the event. “It says a lot about Jerry that all these teams wanted to be part of it.”
One by one, the pieces fell into place. Sandvold presented the idea to Bolingbrook coach Rob Brost, who attended the visitation for Slyhuis and his wife. UNI associate head coach Kyle Green reached out to DeLaSalle. Sandvold pitched the idea to Lee’s Summit, whose coaching staff has close ties to the Gerdes family of Cedar Falls.
Iowa City West coach Steve Bergman heard about the event and got on board. Hempstead jumped in as the sixth boys’ team and Sandvold pitched the girls’ game to Cedar Falls coach Greg Groen and Centennial coach Scott DeJong, who is also a friend of the Slykhuis family.
“I’ve had a lot of help and support pulling this together,” said Sandvold. “Gary Kuennen (Cedar Falls High athletics director) has been awesome. Paul Wolf and Michelle Green have been very involved. John Martin and Don Blau are involved. We’ve gotten some community support in terms of donations and things and the Cedar Valley Sports Commission has stepped up to help.
“We’ve got a great field of teams that have won a lot of state championships the past few years. It’s going to be a great weekend of basketball.”