GANDER, NL – The screech of the whistle sounds as referee Terry Burton calls a foul.
He retrieves the ball and places it in the hands of a Twillingate student who was wronged. One free throw has been issued.
Burton, founder of the McDonald’s Classic, is now a retired teacher, but 30 years later he still remains dedicated to the annual tournament held in Gander.
He is one of two people, including coach Winston Jenkins from Twillingate, still involved since the inception of the McDonald’s Classic.
“I’m still attached to it – it’s one of those things that becomes a part of you,” Burton said about his continued involvement.
“And I still enjoy being around the teams and the games as much as I did from the onset. I love it now more than I ever did.”
The idea for the tournament started after Burton noticed the town didn’t have any tournaments in the way of school invitationals.
“As I was setting it up, I thought sponsorship would be a great idea,” Burton said.
He approached Gander’s then-McDonald’s franchise owner Paul Connolly, who Burton remembers as a tremendous basketball fan.
“He loved the game of basketball and anything we needed him for, he was there,” he said.
Connolly sponsored the tournament for years, and when new management took over the franchise, the partnership continued.