WALLA WALLA - Basketball is coming.
Downtown Walla Walla will be overrun with hoops, courts - and ballers, too.
The 17th annual YMCA Peach Basket Classic opens this weekend, with courts on Main Street between Second Avenue and Spokane Street.
This year's 266 teams - all of them with at least three players - is about 30 more than last year, said director Pat McConn. This is McConn's first year directing the tournament, but he's been involved as a player or organizer since the event's inception.
So far, McConn has largely left the tournament unchanged.
"We felt like last year's tournament was a big success, so we tried to keep as much of last year's and push it into this year's," he said. "Obviously, that works, because we ended up with more teams this year. We felt like last year was good, and it looks like people that played obviously felt like they had a good time and wanted to come back."
Last year, 237 teams registered, a drop from the 245 in 2008.
But McConn said the large number isn't a problem.
"We feel like we can handle 320 or 325 teams before we have to add new courts," McConn said.
Adding new courts would mean opening a new city block past Spokane Street, he said. That day, while perhaps approaching, hasn't yet arrived.
Volunteers, including referees and court management, help keep the tournament going, he said. There are about 50 volunteers on hand, in addition to the refs, keeping track of scores, courts and various activities.
This year, only a handful of brackets will have full-time refereeing, including the male open and 6-foot-and-under divisions.
That keeps with years past, McConn said.
"Some of the larger tournaments in the nation, especially Hoopfest, have many refereed courts," he said. "But finding that many volunteers is difficult. We're trying to add one per year ... It can be difficult to add too many at one time."
Most of the teams are from Walla Walla and surrounding communities, like Dayton and Waitsburg. The Tri-Cities, Pendleton and Hermiston will also make a strong showing, and a handful of teams are making the drive from Spokane, McConn said.
The Peach Basket Classic is a court sponsor at Hoopfest, a June 3-on-3 tournament in Spokane, so teams already in the region can register there.
There are divisions for all age groups and organizations, including families and businesses.
McConn has been a player, court volunteer and now lead organizer of the event, and has grown up with the Peach Basket.
"I haven't necessarily been involved in all the planning, but I've seen it evolve," he said. "I've got a good idea of what needs to happen."
This year's event will have 26 bracket divisions playing on 29 courts. A group of inmates from the Walla Walla Penitentiary will set up and break down the courts before and after the weekend's action.
Although there are a few other spectator events, the big thing on the city streets this weekend is basketball.
"It's basically packed from one side of the street to the other with courts," McConn said. "There's not a whole lot left for anything else."
The increase in teams this year was a surprise, McConn said.
"We were really expecting the same number as last year," he said.
So the sudden rush in the week leading up to July 30 - more than 60 new teams that week - was a surprise.
"We advertised a little more than we did in the past, but you never know if that's going to pan out," he said. "Maybe it's just a fluke thing."
Play starts at about 9 a.m. Saturday morning on all the courts, with the championship games winding up Sunday afternoon, depending on bracket time.
More information is available online at www.peachbasketclassic.com.