Whitney Young High of Chicago and Bishop Gorman of Las Vegas, which both fell in the semifinals of the 2011 Beach Ball Classic, will get another chance at a title in 2012.
In addition, the St. James High boys basketball team will have an opportunity to experience the Beach Ball Classic for the first time.
They are among the 16 teams competing Dec. 26-31 at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center, as the dates and participating teams for the 2012 Beach Ball Classic, CresCom Bank Holiday Invitational and Carolinas Challenge have been announced.
Beach Ball Classic executive director and Myrtle Beach mayor John Rhodes said St. James’ participation is a sign of things to come. North Myrtle Beach competed in the Beach Ball in 2010, and Rhodes would like to add a third local team annually to traditional participants Socastee and Myrtle Beach. Selections will be made based on the quality of local teams year to year.
“St. James had a pretty good team last year and will have a good team this year. They have a lot of good returning players,” Rhodes said. “We’re trying this and seeing about the possibility of having another local team in every year other than the other two teams. It gives the kids a chance to be seen by college coaches, too.”
St. James’ girls were selected for the CresCom tournament last year. “Having the Beach Ball Committee to be respectful of our program and give us a chance to participate is just an honor,” said St. James coach Monty Carr, who returns leading scorer Caleb Duggan, a senior guard. “It’s cool and terrifying at the same time.”
Whitney Young is expected to feature 6-foot-11 junior Jahlil Okafor, who is considered possibly the best big man in the country, as well as 6-9 junior Paul White and 6-9 senior Thomas Hamilton.
Bishop Gorman lost most of its stars to graduation, including the sensational Shabazz Muhammad, but returns 6-11 sophomore Stephen Zimmerman and 6-5 senior Rashad Muhammad.
Among other Beach Ball participants, Spring Valley (S.C.) features 6-2 sophomore guard Perry Dozier Jr., the son of the team’s coach and one of the top 25 juniors in the country. Frankin (Ohio) features talented 6-4 sophomore point guard Luke Kennard, Bishop O’Connell coach Joe Wooten has one of his most talented teams, Orem (Utah) was the only team in Utah to defeat 2011 Beach Ball runner-up Lone Peak last season, and Christ Presbyterian Academy is the reigning state champion in Tennessee and has most of its talent returning.
Scott County (Ky.) returns from 2011, Hudson Catholic (N.J.) and Rufus King (Wis.) will be among the top-ranked teams in their states, St. Rita (Ill.) and Wheeler (Ga.) participated as recently as 2010, and East Rutherford (N.C.) has won recent state titles.
The Beach Ball Classic is off on Dec. 30, but games will be played at the convention center. At 3 p.m., 2010 and 2011 SCISA state champion Myrtle Beach Christian will face Cape Fear Academy. Two of the top young players in the state will be featured in a 5 p.m. game as Hammond High freshman Seventh Woods and Raymond Felton nephew Jalek Hamilton, an eighth-grader at Mullins, will compete.
The Dec. 18-22 girls CresCom tournament features six teams from South Carolina, led by reigning Class AAA state champion Dreher and Heathwood Hall Episcopal of Columbia, which features 6-5 junior post player A’Ja Wilson, who averaged 24 points, 13 rebounds and 5.3 blocks per game last year.
Archbishop Carroll (Pa.) and Kings Fork (Va.) are reigning state champions, Potterhouse (Fla.) has been ranked nationally for the past several years and has three players at North Carolina, and Perry County Central is among the top teams in Kentucky.
Other teams are Penfield (N.Y.), Atlantic High (Fla.), Miami Senior (Fla.), Edgewater (Fla.), Center Point (Ala.), Our Lady of Mercy (N.J.), and S.C. schools Myrtle Beach, Socastee, Pinewood Prep and C.E. Murray.
“Most of the teams we have coming this year didn’t lose more than four or five games last year,” Rhodes said.
In the women’s college CresCom Bank Carolinas Challenge on Dec. 19, North Florida will face Coastal Carolina, North Carolina will face East Carolina, and Clemson will participate for the first time and face Providence.
South Carolina renewed a rivalry with North Carolina at the convention center in recent years, but the Gamecocks host national power Stanford three days prior to the event and will skip it this year. Rhodes said they have committed to return in 2013.
Contact ALAN BLONDIN at 626-0284.