As the country looks to get back to some sort of normalcy, as far as sports being played is concerned, another event has been added to the local sporting calendar. The Hoopfest in Paradise high school basketball tournament is slated to be held at the Kendal G.L. Isaacs National Gymnasium December 16-17.
The announcement was made at a press conference, attended by organizers and government officials, at the Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium yesterday afternoon.
President of Hoopfest in Paradise Basketball Incorporated Glenn Smith said he is looking forward to hosting his first tournament in The Bahamas.
“I have always wanted to do something different like this,” Smith said. “I know The Bahamas has had collegiate events but I think it is time that we now focus on youth basketball and high school. We want to give the Bahamian players an opportunity to not only compete against some of these teams, but to also be scouted. At my events, I have NBA (National Basketball Association) and collegiate scouts, so I think that it will be a good opportunity for everyone.”
The tournament will feature four teams from the United States of America (USA) and two Bahamian high school select teams. Two of the American schools that will be coming are Sunrise Christian Academy out of Bel Aire, Kansas, where Bahamians Chavano ‘Buddy’ Hield and Lourawls ‘Tum Tum’ Nairn played and Duncanville High School out of Duncanville, Texas. The two Bahamian teams will be a select team from New Providence and another one from Grand Bahama. The other two American teams will be announced at a later date.
Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture Mario Bowleg said he is looking forward to seeing the competitiveness of the tournament.
“The tournament is expected to be extremely competitive as we will be hosting four of the top high school teams from the United States of America along with the top all-star teams from The Bahamas. We are looking forward to bringing the best talent from within the country to represent The Bahamas to ensure that we are giving them the exposure and experience that they need at this time,” Bowleg said. “There will be talented scouts in attendance who I am sure will be looking for talent to play on the collegiate level. This is definitely an awesome opportunity for our young basketball players.”
President of the Bahamas Basketball Federation (BBF) Eugene Horton, said, “We are here to show the Hoopfest organization; the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture and other stakeholders our support. We wish you success and let us know where we can assist,” Horton said.
Government Secondary Schools Sports Association (GSSSA) President Varel Davis said she is looking forward to being a part of the selection process for the team from New Providence, and is excited for the kids to get an opportunity to get a scholarship.
“The GSSSA is very excited to be asked to participate in this tournament,” Davis said. “I can assure you that we will field the best all-star senior boys team from our government schools. We are happy for the opportunity. We want to give our kids an opportunity to participate in anything positive, to show them that they will at least get some some type of scholarship along the way, and this is a good outlet.”
High school basketball action has been on pause for the most part. Davis said coaches were still working with players and some even took players to participate in tournaments in the USA. She is confident that they will be able to field a strong team, especially since school has resumed face-to-face learning.
Tournament organizer Jeff Rodgers said that he got a call a few months ago from former senior men’s national team player Lynden Rose and Rose referred him to someone who wanted to bring a high school basketball classic to The Bahamas.
“Based on my years of working in New York through sports tourism, I thought it was a great opportunity when I looked at the economic impact. Normally, when we go after an event, we look at heads in beds. After having a series of meetings with Glenn (Smith), I thought it was good to bring this event to The Bahamas and, immediately, I invited him to come to The Bahamas to meet with the minister to talk more about this initiative. The minister wasted no time and thought this would be something good for The Bahamas,” Rodgers said.
Baha Mar is also on board, set to be a major host for the tournament.
It has been two years since the Kendal G.L. Isaacs Gymnasium has been in use for basketball tournaments.
“The gym will be ready by June,” Bowleg assured. “The National Sports Authority (NSA) is in the process of receiving quotes to repair the gym as we speak. I know they have called me on a few that they have already found. We have to get the roof fixed and so once we get that done and the two locker rooms and then also the front bathrooms, we will be ready to go. We already have funds in the budget, so it’s only a matter of choosing who is going to get the job and getting the work done.”
The BBF’s main fundraiser ‘Summer of Thunder’ is on the agenda for this summer, and Bowleg expects the gym to be ready in time for that event.
NBA players Cade Cunningham (Detroit Pistons), Jalen Green (Houston Rockets), De’Aaron Fox (Sacramento Kings) and Jaylen Brown (Boston Celtics) are some of the players who played in Hoopfest since it began back in 2008 in Dallas, Texas, as a thanksgiving tournament.