The 2014 Beach Ball Classic field is going to make an impression.
The 16 teams for the 34th annual event include regular participants Myrtle Beach and Socastee, as well as past winners Bishop Gorman (Nev.) and St. Edward (Ohio). The tournament will also be flush with some of the nation’s top players, recognized by various recruiting services. Several have been loaded up with offers from the top colleges, and others have already verbally committed.
The Beach Ball Classic will run Dec. 26-31, with nearly all of the games taking place at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center.
If everything goes to plan, it could develop into one of the better collection of talents Beach Ball has had in recent memory.
“We have a history of a great tournament,” the Beach Ball Classic’s Chad Smith said. “We treat, in my opinion, teams better than anyone else in the country. … All they have to worry about is coaching basketball and playing.
“You say ‘Beach Ball Classic’ in basketball circles, and everyone knows about it.”
Picking an early favorite for this year’s tournament would be difficult.
Sagemont (Fla.) is ranked as high as No. 16 nationally after winning the Florida Class 3A title last season. Guard Prince Ali has offers from a handful of top college programs and will likely have plenty more by the time Beach Ball starts.
North Little Rock will be the first team from Arkansas to play in the Beach Ball. The Wildcats feature Keveaughn Allen, who has verbally committed to Florida.
Duke commitment Luke Kennard, who plays for Franklin (Ohio), is within striking distance of the Beach Ball Classic’s all-time scoring record currently held by former Arizona and NBA player Mike Bibby. Bibby is now an assistant coach at Shadow Mountain (Ariz.), another team participating in this year’s event.
Hough (N.C.) guard Luke Maye and Cameron Justice of Knott County (Kent.) will be a pair of other individuals to watch.
Bishop Gorman, the 2009 Beach Ball champion, will again bring a stacked team to the beach. The Gaels’ list of players includes 7-foot center Stephen Zimmerman and 6-foot-10 big man Chase Jeter.
Zimmerman was ranked as the No. 7 player in the country by Rivals in June, and Jeter was No. 8.
Mullins guard Jalek Felton, the nephew of current Dallas Mavericks guard Raymond Felton and one of the top recruits in the state, will also be back on the Grand Strand. Fellow South Carolina team Spring Valley and stars P.J. Dozier and Jordan Brunner will also join the two local squads.
On Tuesday, the field for the CresCom Bank Holiday Invitational field was also announced. That tournament, which will run Dec. 17-22, will include the likes of regular area participant Myrtle Beach, defending champion Miami Sr. (Fla.), Riverside (N.C.) and South Carolina standout programs Orangeburg-Wilkinson and Dreher.
Dreher won the Class AAA girls title last year.
Beatrice Mompremier (Miami Sr.), Dejah Williford-Kelley (Dreher), Kayla Smith (Fayette County, Ga.), and Mone Jones and Kayla Jones of Riverside (N.C.) are all ranked at or near the top of their respective recruiting classes by various national sites.
The teams for the annual Sunday Showdown boys games and the women’s college games during the CresCom tournament have not been announced, although North Carolina and Coastal Carolina women’s programs have been finalized.
On Dec. 28, the tournament will once again hold its 3-point shootout and dunk contest.
Contact IAN GUERIN at email@example.com.