- First-round Justin Sharp Shootout pairings -- Page B2|
Thom Sigel figures most guests at this week's Justin Sharp Memorial Shootout will do a "double-take" when they notice Happy Madison Court inside the tournament program.
Yeah, that Happy Madison. Adam Sandler's production company is sponsoring a court.
"They should think it's awesome," said Sigel, the Rock Island boys' basketball coach. "To have a connection with the Sharp Shootout and a major production company is pretty cool."
The story behind the happening is even better.
Sharp's sister, Alissa, is the mastermind behind Happy Madison's involvement and getting the company to sponsor a court. Since last fall, Alissa has attended Occidental College in southern California and worked part-time for Sandler's producing partner Jack Giarraputo, who gave the approval for all this.
Alissa told Giarraputo how her brother succumbed to leukemia almost nine years ago and what the tournament means to his memory and the Quad-Cities community. Within a week, Happy Madison issued a check.
"It was right away," Sharp said. "No issues. No begging."
With the check signed, sealed and delivered, Rock Island Fieldhouse becomes Happy Madison Court for one weekend.
"They saw what a worthwhile cause it is," Sigel said. "And that's someone who isn't from Rock Island and didn't know him. It's just real generous. It's also a testimony to what the tournament stands for."
Above all, the tournament serves as a memorial to a player so respected that his signature is present on every chair inside the Rocks' locker room. No other player has worn No. 14 since Justin passed away in December 2003.
Now, the event with so much meaning for those behind its success has a special twist.
"That's a really cool thing," Sharp's father Craig said. "Happy Madison is kind of a big deal in the world. It's a pretty nice tie-in."
All this is a fitting tribute to Justin Sharp's memory.
"I don't know if he liked those movies or not," Sigel said. "But he'd be honored to know someone would do that."
The gesture came by way of what Alissa calls a "very generous" family.
"Really nice and down-to-earth people," Alissa said.
They were moved by Justin's story.
"(Giarraputo) took it to heart," Alissa said.
Dialogue between Alissa and Giarraputo about the tournament started two months ago and everything was finalized in late May. Once Sigel learned about it, the die-hard Sandler fan initially thought it was a joke.
"When I realized he was serious," Sigel said, "I thought it was a neat connection."
Until now, all this has been kept quiet. Sigel said none of the participating teams know the entire story behind Happy Madison Court or that the name is the actual Happy Madison Productions.
"I'm sure they'll wonder how it came about," Sigel said.
Everything started with a sister wanting to continue her brother's legacy.
Besides the court sponsorship, Happy Madison will get a full-page ad in the shootout program. Alissa got sizes so the family can have T-shirts from the event.
Ironically, those shirts could make an appearance in "Grown Ups 2," the company's upcoming film.
"He wants it in the next movie," Alissa said. "Just like an extra or something. He just likes that kind of stuff."
The Justin Sharp Memorial Shootout could make an appearance on the big screen.
A simple check made this all possible.
"I had no idea there was ever going to be a connection," Craig said. "Very hard to believe."
Justin Sharp Shootout
- When: Friday-Saturday
- Where: Rock Island Fieldhouse and PepsiCo Recreation Center
- Local teams: Alleman, Geneseo, Moline, Morrison, Rock Island, Rockridge, United Township