Without the help of Que Jones, the early years of the Rumph Classic running past sunset at Mallery Recreation Center don’t happen.
Jones was an assistant rec leader, helping maintain the gym and dealing with scheduling. He wasn’t at the gym the night Danny Rumph passed away but vividly remembers getting the call.
“It was just so sad and everyone was in shock,” Jones said. “And for it to happen the way it happened – kind of like a freak accident – it started bringing back memories of Hank Gathers. Everybody was just in shock.”
When Rumph’s closest childhood friends started the tournament, they looked to Mallery, now known as the Rumph Center, as its first venue.
Mallery’s gym wasn’t supposed to stay open late enough for the Rumph to take place and Jones wasn’t going to get paid overtime. Jones’ superior told him: “It’s up to you if you want to stay later because I’m going home.”
“Not everybody is a people person or is willing to go the extra mile for the community,” Jones said. “I like to think I’m one of those guys who, it doesn’t necessarily have to benefit me but as long as it benefits others I don’t have a problem with it. It created a great atmosphere for the basketball community and what it stood for.”
The Rumph moved from Mallery to Arcadia in 2012. Jones’ favorite memory predates that move.
The championship game in 2011 drew a packed house. There were fans lining the baselines, filling the corners, stepping over the sidelines, and trying to get a look from the glass windows upstairs. As the night went on, someone asked Jones if it was OK that they stay late.
“I’m like, not a problem. I’m enjoying myself and the community is having fun,” Jones said. “I’d look like the bad guy if I was like, “Alright, we’re shutting it down. We’ll continue tomorrow.’”
Thankfully, Jones let Team Rumph Center and the team representing Uptown play on. Thinking back on it fondly, Jones sets the scene as if it were a million dollar-budget motion picture (it probably could be).
Sharif Bray caught an inbounds pass in the left corner. He drove towards the basket on a rip through, flipped the ball up and in, drawing a foul. The three-point play put Team Rumph Center on top going into a timeout.
“Imagine [the fans] making the floor into half court because there were seconds to go,” Jones said. “If they get the steal it was over so they weren’t worried about nobody going back the other way. The game was going to be over on this possession.”
A defensive stop proved Bray’s shot to be the game winner, securing Team Rumph Center’s third championship in six years.
“That was one of the best moments of the tournament if you ask me,” Jones said. “It was like something out of a movie. Everybody was on the edge of their seats. Standing room only. Full court into half court.
“That’s when we said, eventually this has to go to a bigger venue.”