The 11th annual Puerto Rico Tip-Off at Myrtle Beach concluded Sunday night with an Iowa State championship at the HTC Center, though the event’s impact on the area could continue.
The Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce, Myrtle Beach Regional Sports Alliance, of which Coastal Carolina University is a member, and CCU combined to become the alternate host of the tournament, which is owned and operated by ESPN Events.
None of the three entities brought the event to the HTC Center to make a direct profit, though Chamber president Brad Dean said he saw three benefits to hosting the tournament, some that may ultimately be realized in the future.
The tournament, which was relocated from Puerto Rico because of the ongoing recovery from Hurricane Maria on the island U.S. territory, came during a slow period for hotels and area businesses.
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“There’s an economic benefit because mid-November is a fairly slow time for tourism, so it’s bringing people into our hotels and restaurants that will shop over the weekend,” Dean said. “If the businesses make money, everybody wins.”
The teams and their supporters had Saturday off and had good weather to enjoy the Strand’s beaches, attractions and restaurants.
Three days and 12 games of coverage on the ESPN family of networks, including some games on the widely distributed ESPN2 television channel, and print and internet coverage could also pay dividends.
“The greater benefit from our perspective is the publicity and that’s the gift that keeps on giving,” Dean said. “People watching this at home will see pictures of our beaches, our attractions and it will remind them that the Myrtle Beach area is a great destination to come.”
Dean said the chamber learned when CCU hosted the Big South Conference basketball tournament from 2010 to 2015 that the event reached a larger audience than the chamber anticipated.
He said the third benefit is further establishing the Myrtle Beach area as a landing spot for collegiate sports, continuing a sports push by the chamber and area municipalities like Myrtle Beach and North Myrtle Beach.
“It’s our hope that someday we could not only host a tournament like this on a permanent ongoing basis, but perhaps a bowl game in the new stadium that Coastal is [expanding],” Dean said. “The more we can position the Myrtle Beach area on a national stage, the more appealing it becomes to the national audience of travelers.”
It’s our hope that someday we could not only host a tournament like this on a permanent ongoing basis, but perhaps a bowl game in the new stadium that Coastal is [expanding]. The more we can position the Myrtle Beach area on a national stage, the more appealing it becomes to the national audience of travelers.
Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Brad Dean
Dan Shoemaker, a tournament official and retired ESPN Vice President of Collegiate Relations, said tournament organizers were highly impressed with the hospitality, offerings and organization of the event from Strand leaders.
“When you think about communities like Myrtle Beach, they are resort-type communities that are very heavy in the hospitality industry, but clearly in Myrtle Beach hospitality is a way of live,” Shoemaker said. “As a group we’ve never been treated better, never run into people more friendly, willing to jump in and help. It was off the charts across the board.”
This is the second consecutive year the Puerto Rico Tip-Off has been held in the contiguous U.S. Last year it was played in Orlando because of a Zika Virus scare in Puerto Rico.
Shoemaker said ESPN Events intends to bring the tournament back to Puerto Rico next year if possible, though Myrtle Beach would be a sought after site if a replacement is again needed. He also expects Myrtle Beach to be a strong consideration for any other relocating event or new college tournament ESPN may create.
Shoemaker has a relationship with Dean and Myrtle Beach Mayor John Rhodes, largely through a past business relationship with Rhodes’ Beach Ball Classic high school basketball tournament, and initially thought about holding the Puerto Rico Tip-Off at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center, which wasn’t available. The HTC Center was available with the CCU volleyball and men’s basketball teams out of town and a light women’s basketball team schedule.
“There is great interest on the part of the events group to consider Myrtle Beach for anything that might be available,” Shoemaker said. “Myrtle Beach was incredibly impressive as a location for an event location. The hotels, venues, restaurants are outstanding. I think it would be very difficult to look at the creation of an event without considering Myrtle Beach at this point.”
Coastal Carolina athletic director Matt Hogue said the school planned to break even if not make a small profit as host. He provided tournament organizers with the school’s cost breakdown for game-day staff, etc.
To benefit both the Grand Strand and Puerto Rico, tournament and local organizers collected toys and canned goods at the door for both locals in need and those in Fajarto, Puerto Rico, the community that was going to be the tournament host and was hard hit by Hurricane Maria. The collection is continuing through the holiday season.
The championship game was broadcast on ESPN2 and was suspenseful, as Boise State cut a 24-point deficit in the second half to four points with 2:35 to play.
But Iowa State regained its composure and ended the game on an 11-4 run, including a key 3-pointer by guard Donovan Jackson that gave ISU a seven-point cushion with 1:16 remaining.
The Cyclones won 75-64 to improve to 3-2, and had the most support in the arena of the tournament’s eight teams, filling up a couple sections in the school’s gold and cardinal colors. The Cyclones had suffered double-figure losses to Missouri and Milwaukee prior to the tournament, during which it defeated Appalachian State, Tulsa and Boise State.
“They scored on like five straight [possessions] on us and we kind of just had to come together as a group and take it personal,” Cyclones point guard Nick Weiler-Babb said. “It was pride at that point. You had to get stops and that’s pride. We just took it personally and took it to heart, and knew we had to get stops to win the game. We couldn’t keep trading baskets.”
Jackson set a new tournament record with 76 points in three games, including 26 Sunday night.
“Collectively I’m proud of the growth that we’ve made this week,” ISU coach Steve Prohm said. “We came down here facing a lot of adversity, a lot of questions, and we took a step. Now they have to understand we have to go home, we have to coach them harder and they have to do better in all areas for us to continue to grow.”
Boise State has an NBA prospect in 6-7 senior guard Chandler Hutchison, who fell on his back and banged his head against the court while trying to come down with a rebound in the first half and was limited to just eight minutes. It was unclear if he suffered a concussion and was held out for precautionary measures, according to Boise State head coach Leon Rice.
A Puerto Rico Tip-Off championship has been a precursor of good things to come for its past three winners, which have all reached at least the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet 16 in the season of their victories.
West Virginia reached the Sweet 16 in 2014, Miami reached the Sweet 16 in 2015 and Xavier reached the Elite 8 last season.