During a time of year when most folks are focused on what’s under the tree, it's another type of wood — the hardwood — that will hold the interest of high school sports fans from around the country.
The Beach Ball Classic basketball tournament will be held for the 31st time this month, running from Dec. 27-31 at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center.
The annual tournament will feature 16 teams from around the nation suiting up beginning Thursday in hopes of claiming the coveted crown as champions of one of the nation's premier high school basketball tournaments.
In addition to the high-quality competition on the courts, the event is a plus on numerous fronts.
For the City of Myrtle Beach, the Classic is a yearly gift which brings in hoards of people during a historically drab offseason week between two holidays.
“I tell everybody this is my best Christmas present each year, the Beach Ball Classic,” said Paul Edwards general manager of the Myrtle Beach Convention Center.
And in true form of the season, the Convention Center is a bustling, hectic place before the tournaments as teams of workers hurry to transform the complex into a 6,600 seat arena.
“We have learned together over the years what it to takes to flip it,” said Myrtle Beach Mayor and Beach Ball Classic Executive Director John Rhodes. “And they have nailed it. It’s amazing what they can do in the amount of time provided.”
Starting with Coastal Carolina graduation ceremonies Dec. 17, the convention center began its transformation, before shifting into full-scale sports mode hosting hosting the Crescent Bank Holiday Invitational girls high school basketball tournament this week (more information here).
It took a crew of a dozen workers approximately eight hours to get the floor down, not to mention also constructing bleachers, hanging banners, shipping in chairs and perfecting the scoreboard and lighting. Most of the seats are reserved for sponsors and approximately 300 for the teams.
This year 11 states are represented including Utah, Texas, New York, Ohio, Florida, Illinois and Kentucky in addition to southeast region teams from S.C., Georgia and Lousiana.
As always a few local teams will be in the mix with Myrtle Beach and Socastee competing alongside talented squads such as the top-10-nationally-ranked Bishop Gorman High, from Las Vegas, Nevada.
When it comes to individual talent on display, the main attraction will be Bishop Gorman's Shabazz Muhammad, a 6'6" swingman who is widely regarded as the nation's top senior. Playing second fiddle to Muhammad in age, if not talent, will be another top-ranked national recruit in junior Julius Randle, a 6'9" power forward from Prestonwood Christian Academy in Plano, Texas.
For Randle this will be his second trip to Myrtle Beach for the BBC, but for many of the students competing, the tournament marks a first for them.
“A lot of the team’s coming from out of state, for a lot of them, this is their first time in Myrtle Beach,” Edwards said. “That’s what it’s all about. Introducing Myrtle Beach to people who haven’t been here before and hope they return.”
The championship rounds will be played on New Year's Eve, concluding with the title game at 7:30 p.m.
Advance tickets are available to the general public by calling (843) 213-0032 or visiting beachballclassic.com. Game-day tickets are $12 at the door of the Myrtle Beach Convention Center, $15 for reserved seating. Games will also be available for viewing live online courtesy of HTC at http://beachballclassic.sccoast.net/