The Great Bend version of the NBA — the Noon Basketball Association — started more than 35 years ago, when a few businessmen began to meet at the Great Bend Municipal Auditorium gym over the noon hour to play basketball.
Somewhere along the line those hours of physical and mental recreation became a tradition. The Great Bend Recreation Commission continues to keep the gym open to basketball players from noon to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday. It has also expanded the program with a Morning Basketball Association that meets at 6 a.m. every Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.
Now current members of the basketball programs have created a Hall of Fame to recognize former players and establish a fund to promote basketball through GBRC programs, member Chuck Pike said. A plaque and photos will be located in the Municipal Auditorium.
Working with the GBRC Foundation, organizers will introduce and recognize the inaugural GBRC NBA and MBA Hall of Fame class during a reception set for 4 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 28, at the Carl Soden Recreation Center, 1214 Stone St. Former players to be honored are Bob Suelter, Jon Briel, Kevin Sundahl and Loy Anthony, along with posthumous awards to Ray Cheely and Steve Warner.
"All past and present players are encouraged to attend and share stories of the good old days and celebrate what has become a great tradition," Pike said. "There is no charge for this event; however, those attending will be encouraged to contribute to a fund to be established with the GBRC Foundation to honor former players and used to promote GBRC projects which enhance basketball opportunities for all members of the community."
Suelter recalled how the noon games started in 1975, after he and some of his friends decided they could make better use of their lunch hour than eating burgers and shooting pool. "We just started doing it for the exercise," said Suelter, who is now the Great Bend City Attorney. More and more people started joining in.
"It didn’t matter who showed up," Suelter said. "We just played."
"Over the years, the love of basketball has brought together hundreds of players of all ages and walks of life," Pike said.
Cheely and Warner were there more afternoons than not.
Cindy Warner said her husband Steve would have lunch with her once a week, but the rest of his week he was with his basketball buddies. Standing 6 feet, 4 inches tall and having "freaking long arms," Warner a was force to be reckoned with, family friend Marlin Thompson told Cindy Warner. From Thompson she learned, "he could do the turn and shoot like no one else," often surprising younger players, she said. He continued to play in the mornings and afternoons for 28 years.
Briel helped get the morning group started in 1988, around the time of his 40th birthday, so people who couldn’t make it to the noon games could still fit basketball into their schedules. He continued to play until he was 55.