One final day chock full of hoops action still remains in this year’s Beach Ball Classic.
Yet that isn’t keeping tournament organizers from peering ahead to the future, and what it could hold for one of the nation’s top prep hoops holiday fixtures.
According to Myrtle Beach mayor and Beach Ball Classic executive director John Rhodes, at least six teams are already on board for next year’s tournament.
Among those paying a visit to the Grand Strand next holiday season include previous invitees Lone Peak (Utah), Moeller (Ohio) and Scott County (Ky.) – which took part in this year’s event. Also giving Rhodes a thumbs up was Crossroads School in Santa Monica, Calif., which features Shareef O’Neal, son of NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal.
“(O’Neal) is one of the top 20 juniors in the country,” Rhodes said. “At 6-foot-9, 6-foot-10, he is an outstanding player.”
A common theme in regard to those teams is their youth, with each featuring a host of talented juniors on their roster. Rhodes said he and the Beach Ball Classic organizing committee look at a team’s youth as well as its track record when deciding which programs to invite.
“If they have a host of good juniors with a solid track record, we look forward to them as seniors playing real well and coming here looking to impress,” the Myrtle Beach mayor said. “What we hope for us that teams that come here, that when they do happen to lose, can learn from that experience and take it with them back to their respective states, and hopefully win state championships.
“It’s not a disappointment necessarily to come here and lose a game or two, but more so an encouragement that they competed and can take that confidence earned into playing for and maybe winning a state championship.”
Tournament mainstays Socastee and Myrtle Beach also are part of next year’s field. At most, two more in-state basketball programs will be invited to next year’s Beach Ball Classic.
With that in mind, Rhodes said he is looking to potentially reel in the biggest fish South Carolina prep hoops has to offer.
“Spartanburg Day is someone I’m looking hard at, particularly with what Zion Williamson is doing,” he said. “He is absolutely tearing it up, and next year will likely be a top-five prospect nationally.”
Rhodes said an invitation is likely to be offered relatively soon, but not before having a conversation with the Spartanburg Day coach about its availability.
The criteria for a top instate school? Much the same as anyone else, the Myrtle Beach mayor said, with the goal to put on one of the nation’s top prep basketball tournaments.
“Their teams must be a great team and have players ranked relatively high in regard to their peers nationwide,” Rhodes said.
Beach Ball selections for the 2017 event are likely to be finalized after the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend.
Excluding local programs Myrtle Beach and Socastee, Scott County (Ky.) has played in more Beach Ball Classic games than all but one other program –Archbishop Molloy (N.Y.) – with 31 games played.
The Cardinals are tied with DeMatha Catholic (Md.) for the fourth most in tournament history.
Fellow 2016 participant Bishop O’Connell (Va.) is next with 30 games played, and has one game remaining Saturday.
The Cardinals (8-3) are 16-15 in their Beach Ball history after going 1-2 this year with a team led largely by sophomores and juniors. They beat Myrtle Beach before losing to Evanston Township (Ill.) and Westchester (Calif.), the latter by one point Friday.
Scott County won the consolation bracket in 2011 and reached semifinals in 2009 and 2012.
Coach Billy Hicks believes the experience helps the program with each appearance.
“Experience shows up in a lot of different ways,” Hicks said. “But I think having been here, we know how to prepare for everything, we know how to get ready for it. That experience obviously helps. It helps me and the staff, and it helps the players because we know how to get them ready to play.”
Archbishop Molloy has appeared in 12 Beach Balls and DeMatha 10, and Scott County is tied with St. Edward (Ohio) and Bishop O’Connell with eight appearances each. The Cardinals have agreed to attend the next two Beach Balls with a talented, maturing team.
Navy commits match wits at Beach Ball
Prior to Friday, Jonesboro’s (Ga.) Jaylon Terrell and Providence (Fla.) guard Kyle Marion had never met.
Yet, they knew plenty about each other, having read about each other in press clippings as they prepare to become teammates at the next level with Navy.
Though wanting to have bragging rights ahead of their days on campus in Annapolis, Md., there was still business left to be handled on the basketball court.
In one of the more anticipated games on the fifth day of this year’s Beach Ball Classic, it was Marion’s Providence squad that stole the show, claiming a 66-43 win over Jonesboro. For the game, Marion wound up with 13 points and two rebounds, while his future teammate, Terrell, had 2 points in a losing effort.
“I got some bragging rights going in,” Marion said. “I was trying to just get the win for my team, though. Never am I looking for individual goals or accolades, I’m all about making sure my team can come away with a ‘W.’ ”
While certainly dialed into what their respective teams were doing, both players were keeping an eye on the other, knowing they’ll be together in the Midshipmen backcourt together the next four years.
“It was good seeing someone I would be playing with in the future,” Terrell said. “He is a good guard, and I look forward to playing beside him. But I also like going against people I will be playing with. There is a little bit of added juice to taking on a guy you’re going to play with.”
Marion echoed those sentiments, feeling the two of them could do great things at Navy.
“I feel we could have great futures together,” he said. “It should definitely be fun.”