If you like what you see in this week’s 33rd Beach Ball Classic, the good news is you may have a chance to see it again at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center in the next couple years.
Underclassmen will be among the biggest draws in the annual holiday high school hoops tournament, being played Thursday through Tuesday.
“There’s a lot of young talent this year,” said Beach Ball executive director and Myrtle Beach mayor John Rhodes. “We have some exciting young players that are being heavily recruited.”
The majority of the tournament’s top players are guards and wing players. They include Grayson Allen, a 6-foot-5 senior guard from Providence High (Jacksonville, Fla.) who has committed to Duke, and 6-5 junior Luke Kennard of Franklin (Ohio), the tournament’s 2012 Most Outstanding Player after a 43-point outburst in a game.
Bishop O’Connell (Arlington, Va.) 6-3 senior Romelo Trimble is among the top point guards in the nation and has committed to Maryland, and Mullins 6-4 guard Jalek Felton is perhaps the top freshman guard in the country.
“Most of the talent is in the guards, and they’re exciting guards in different classes,” said Kevin Schneider, vice president and national recruiting director of the Big Shots recruiting and tournament operation service based in Myrtle Beach. “You have plenty of shot-makers, so those nets are going to get put to use.
“… I think when you have Kennard, Allen and Trimble, those are three of my favorites and they’re fun to watch. The talent is going to be exciting.”
Because a lot of the tournament’s talent is young and has yet to commit to a college – particularly Kennard, Felton and 6-8 Hough (Cornelius, N.C.) High junior Luke Maye – Rhodes expects this year’s event to attract a bevy of college coaches, possibly including Roy Williams of North Carolina and Mike Krzyzewski of Duke.
Those two ACC and Tobacco Road rivals were last at the event in 2011 when guard Shabazz Muhammad and center Jahlil Okafor were among the uncommitted stars.
“We’re going to have a lot of college coaches here this year, especially with Kennard,” Rhodes said. “I would not be a bit surprised if you see coach Williams and coach K at the Beach Ball again.”
In addition to participants with a rich history in the event including 1997 champion Bishop Loughlin of Brooklyn, N.Y., 2010 champion Miller Grove of Lithonia, Ga., and 2012 runner-up Bishop O’Connell of Arlington, Va., there are also several first-time participants.
New to the event are Moeller of Cincinnati, Ohio; Northland of Columbus, Ohio; Madison Memorial of Madison, Wis.; Bullis of Potomac, Md.; and Hough.
According to national rankings, Providence and Miller Grove are the favorites to claim the Beach Ball title on New Year’s Eve.
Providence is ranked 20th and Miller Grove 24th in the MaxPreps Xcellent 25 national rankings, and both are also in the top 50 in USA Today’s national rankings.
Providence has a balanced team that includes the explosiveness of Allen. The Stallions are big in the middle with 6-9 senior David Sharpe, who committed to Florida in mid-December as an offensive tackle in football, and 6-5 senior Christian Terrell is committed to Florida-Gulf Coast in basketball.
Miller Grove is a five-time defending Georgia state champion. Sophomore Alterique Gilbert is one of the better shooters in Georgia as a 5-11 scoring point guard, and 6-2 senior Keith Pinckney is a do-it-all guard who averaged 16 points and 6 assists last season.
Bishop O’Connell won the tough Washington Catholic Athletic Conference title last season and is considered a contender again with Trimble.
Norcross (Ga.) is perennially one of the top programs in Georgia and features Harvard commitment Andre Chatfield, a 6-4 senior, and fellow wing players 6-6 junior Ricky Madison and 6-6 senior Lorenzo Carter. “They’re a long, athletic team and they come in waves with it,” Schneider said.
A disciplined Bullis team returned most of a squad that won its second consecutive Interstate Athletic Conference championship last season, including 6-11 senior Hofstra commitment Andre Walker.
Northland was the top-ranked team in Ohio in the preseason and features 6-1 left-handed senior point guard Ty Hairston, who creates opportunities off his dribble, and versatile and athletic 6-7 sophomore Seth Towns, who has been offered by Virginia Tech, Ohio, Xavier and Dayton and has visited Ohio State.
Moeller, a traditional football powerhouse, is now a force in basketball as the Crusaders have won Ohio state titles in 1999, 2003 and ’07 and played for the title in 2010.
Moeller features Nate Fowler, a highly skilled 6-9 junior who is physical around the basket. He has received offers from Butler, Dayton, Miami and West Virginia, and is complemented by 6-2 senior guard Grant Benzinger, who has received several offers and is one of the top shooters in Ohio.
Moeller will be bringing its own vocal support as 100 or so followers of the program are expected to make the trip to Myrtle Beach.
In addition to Felton, Mullins will receive production from 6-4 senior Alex Brown, a left-handed slasher who is considered a mid-major prospect.
Spring Valley’s 6-6 P.J. Dozier, who is considered by many the top junior in South Carolina, is not expected to play because of an injury, so 6-8 sophomore Jordan Bruner will have to carry the load in Dozier’s absence.
Rhodes was set back in recruiting for this year’s event because of a brain aneurism, surgery during the Beach Ball Classic last December and recovery early last year, so he had to rely more than ever on the Beach Ball name to attract some top talent and teams.
“You are out there competing against the other tournaments,” Rhodes said. “You have to sell your wares. You have to sell your reputation.”
Contact ALAN BLONDIN at 626-0284.